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4 Container Trends for 2016

What will consumers want to buy at retail garden centers this year? We know there are plants and combinations that will always be popular, but shoppers are also looking for something new. We think these four trends are important for growers and retailers to know.

Icing on the Cake
This pollinator-attracting combination called Showtime includes Vermillionaire© Cuphea, which butterflies love.
Icing on the Cake
Luscious© Marmalade Lantana is one of several outstanding new drought-loving plants.
Icing on the Cake
The Bermuda Skies combination includes plants with both of the Pantone® colors of the year — Supertunia® Bermuda Beach Petunia and Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia.

By Kerry Meyer, Program Manager, Proven Winners

1. Pollinator Attracting Plants

Pollinators, especially bees, have been in the news a lot lately. This has caused a surge of interest from gardeners wanting to make their gardens (including container gardens) more friendly to pollinators of all kinds. Most of the buzz has been about bees (sorry for the pun!). Butterflies and birds — which for most people means hummingbirds — have always been popular with gardeners. They have better PR than bees, colorful wings and fascinating habits that are naturally appealing.

Bees, on the other hand, have had a public relations problem. They sting (never mind that if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone), some people are allergic and many people hate bugs in general. If nothing else, the focus on the challenges for bees have made more people aware of how important pollinators are to the world. When we promote pollinator friendly plants, everyone from retailers, to gardens and to pollinators themselves wins.

2. Low Water Use/Easy Care Containers

Drought has also been in the news over the past several years. For those directly affected by the drought, especially if water restrictions are in force, choosing plants that need less water makes sense. But more than that, making it easier to maintain container plants appeals to most gardeners. Container maintenance, on a day-to-day basis, really means watering.

I believe we are at the start of a trend towards self-watering containers that are also attractive. I’ve seen self-watering containers before, but they’ve always been both expensive and singularly unattractive. We are just beginning to see the first containers of this type that are attractive. I’ve even heard of one with a water gauge so you know how much water is still available for plants. Like many consumers, I’m not willing to pay a lot of money for a less appealing container, even if it means watering once a month. Once that container is also attractive, then I’m in, despite the cost. It might take me a few years to replace my old containers with new — I’ll want to spread out the cost out over time, but I will be looking for cool, self-watering containers for my deck.

3. New Color Influences: Rose Quartz and Serenity

No, those aren’t the names of treatments at a local spa. They are the Pantone® dual colors of the year for 2016. Expect the fashion and decorating industries to use these colors in their designs. What people see for the inside of their homes, they also want for the outside of their homes.

Fortunately for us, both of these colors are easy to find in plants – two examples are Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia and Decadence® ‘Pink Truffles’ Baptisia. Proven Winners has a Pinterest board that shows more ideas. Consumers aren’t that likely to seek plants in the Pantone colors of the year, but those colors they see in other retail environments will probably show up subconsciously when they choose plants for their gardens.

4. Shrubs in Containers

Shrubs can be challenging to use in combination containers as they can crowd out their container-mates over time. However, many people now garden mostly in containers. Some don’t have land in which to garden or their soil is so bad they have trouble being successful with in-ground plantings. Many gardens are also smaller, as more people move back to cities and yards shrink in suburbs.

Gardens may be more container-based these days, but that doesn’t mean gardeners want to give up growing their favorite shrubs.

Proven Winners has been breeding and selecting petite shrubs that work well in containers for years. Consumers can now grow versions of many favorite shrubs in containers. It’s the best of both worlds.

Do you need to fill your garden center with attractive self-watering containers, filled with soft blue and pink flowering drought tolerant shrubs? Of course not! But it makes sense to ensure your staff can point out drought tolerant plants, self-watering containers, pollinator attractors and shrubs that work well in containers. Maybe you can have a list of soft blue and pink plants ready, or create a display of plants in those colors.

This is a prime opportunity to use POP as your silent sellers and to have your staff prepped and ready when the season starts. To learn more about how Proven Winners POP and retail staff training can help your operation, visit

Icing on the Cake
Petite shrubs like Cityline® Paris Hydrangea work well in containers.

In her position as Program Director for Proven Winners, Kerry Meyer writes regularly about consumer trends. She can be reached at

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