How Does Your Garden Grow? Welcome to the 2021 gardening season

2020 has been a very challenging and difficult year for all of us. As we enter 2021, we are optimistic that things are looking up. We can now begin to move forward to a new gardening season. Let’s discuss some of the new trends and plants for 2021.

The No. 1 trend for 2021 is, surprisingly, gardening. With everyone spending so much time at home, many people of all ages are discovering gardening. Gardening can bring joy to your life while also having the added benefit of improving your mental and physical health. New gardeners will be busy learning garden basics such as choosing the right plants, growing beautiful flowers and growing your own food. Gardening is back and more popular than ever.

The No. 4 gardening trend for 2021 is growing food in all kinds of spaces. The growing your own vegetables, fruits and herbs movement is gaining traction as families are creating their own food gardens. If you don’t have a large space to garden, you still have alternatives. Raised beds of all sizes can be constructed. Need to go even smaller? Food for the family can be grown in containers or vertically on trellis structures. Related, trend No. 9 is getting kids involved. As children garden, they will learn about nature and learn to respect the growing process as they care for plants. Home gardening is a “win-win” family activity.

Getting creative with containers is the No. 5 new trend for this gardening season. Many people would like to be gardening but find it difficult if their gardening area is restricted to a patio, deck or even balcony situation. Containers to the rescue. Containers are multi-taskers that can be placed in a variety of locations and moved as necessary. The other new thing about containers is what type of plants are going into them. They are not just annual holders anymore. New opportunities for container gardens include tropicals, dwarf trees, dwarf citrus, and small varieties of shrubs.

Now let’s look at some of the new inspiring plants for 2021.

Italian Ice rose has been winning multiple awards. It is a multi-petal rose that opens up in orange and changes to soft yellow and pink blush as it matures. Blooming summer to fall, this 3-by-3-foot easy care, disease resistant rose will grow happily in your garden with 6 to 8 hours of sun.

The National Flowering Shrub selection for 2021 is Pugster Blue dwarf butterfly bush, which is very popular with monarch, viceroy and Eastern swallowtail butterflies. This petite 2-foot-by-3-foot shrub will bloom from summer to frost displaying large panicle shaped deep violet purple flowers. It’s flower power in a tiny package.

Cat’s Pajamas catmint is the well-behaved Perennial of the Year. It grows a compact 18 inches by 18 inches and can produce an attractive, blue border that is popular with bees and butterflies. After spring bloom, shear the plant by half, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful fall bloom.

The Annual of the Year is Pink Star petunia. It is great for pots, baskets and window boxes. Other annuals getting some attention this season include Yukon Gold poppy, Red Zone lantana, Tiger Eye sunflower and all colors of the Double Delight begonia series.

For those of us who lost our burning bushes recently, there is an eco-friendly, native shrub for your consideration. Kodiak Orange Diervilla blooms with clusters of yellow flowers all summer long. Fall brings a glowing display of orange-red foliage that lasts for several weeks. This shrub has a very fancy name, but is not fussy to grow and will do well in full shade to full sun.

To see color photos of all of these plants, check them out on the internet by putting in the name of the plant and requesting images. The 2021 plants are stunning!

With new trends to consider and new plants to inspire us, the 2021 gardening season should be lots of fun. Enjoy.

• The Master Gardener Help Desk is closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gardening questions can be emailed to uiemg-dekalb@illinois.edu.