As a green industry professional, your clients look to you for the best advice, whether creating an outdoor living room or installing seasonal containers. And, when you're well-versed on the latest horticultural trends, it's easy to leverage your expertise to increase sales and expand your customer base. After all, understanding trends help you select plants, products, or services your customers desire—whether they realize it yet or not! Even focusing on a few specific trends helps show your clients that you're knowledgeable and prepared to keep their landscapes and installations fresh and trend-setting. And, if you're a supplier, understanding the latest trends ensures that you'll stock the "it" plants and products to meet your customers' demands.

But where do you begin? How do you know which trends have legs—and which become the "pet rock" of 2020? We have a couple of ideas to get you started...

Trend: Urban Greening

More than half of the world's population lives in cities—and by 2050, that number is expected to climb to 70 percent. But city-dwellers long for nature: tranquil, plant-filled spaces to relax, meet friends, entertain the kids, and post to Instagram. "Green Recreational Districts" and green infrastructure continues to grow as a priority. In fact, America in Bloom launched "Growing Vibrant Communities"—a program that measures a community's commitment and progress toward creating green, environmentally friendly spaces filled with flowers, urban trees, and vibrant landscapes. That's where you come in.

By understanding the rise in urban greening, you can focus proposals on urban-specific designs, city-appropriate plants, and green space hardscape elements to wow your prospective clients. As a supplier, you'll know to boost your inventory of plants appropriate for cityscapes. Trees under 30-feet tall, such as Acer campestre (Hedge Maple), Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud), and Amelanchier spp. (Serviceberry) work beautifully in urban environments under low utility lines or restricted spaces, for instance. Well-placed and well-managed urban-appropriate trees control stormwater runoff, sequester carbon, and reduce energy consumption—shading buildings during hot summers and reducing cold winds in winter. But trees aren't the only green needs. Gorgeous grasses, pretty perennials, and low-maintenance shrubs—choosing the best varieties for an urban setting gives you an advantage over the competition when you can sell the benefits of this trend to your clients. When a city issues an RFP for greenscape designs, you'll be ready, because you understand the needs for urban greening.

Or perhaps creating green roofscapes is your forte. Use the trend of urban greening to encourage your commercial clients to develop green escapes—above the city. By sharing your knowledge with developers and showing how green roofs will attract buyers or renters, your clients will look to you as a knowledgeable green partner. And, if you're a supplier, you can be ready for an increased demand for plant material that withstands elevated temperatures, wind exposure, and intense sunlight.

Trend: Plant Parenting

As you create proposals for urban greening, don't forget another trend: plant parenting. You've most likely seen the slew of books and social media accounts geared toward plant parents—millennials who pay top dollar for unique houseplants. However, why not extend the houseplant-love trend by marketing a growing "family" of plants—a green balcony oasis for houseplant parents! Creating small-space designs that utilize containers on an apartment or condo balcony gives an urban dweller a private green escape. Small-statured evergreens that provide continuous, year-round color married with seasonal tropical plants, annuals, and perennials look cohesive and refreshing when designed and installed by you. Consider suggesting a subscription service for ongoing maintenance, allowing your green balcony clients to enjoy the space without the stress.

By encouraging millennials' love of houseplants and showing urban dwellers how to extend plant parenting to balcony gardening, you've created new gardening customers. (The industry thanks you!)

Trend: Small-Space Edibles

There's nothing as delicious as a homegrown tomato—and growing food continues to surge in popularity. In the past, urban gardeners and apartment dwellers lamented their lack of space to grow tomatoes, melons, berries, and squash—all well-known space hogs. However, plant breeders listened—and new, compact fruit and vegetable varieties give small-space gardeners the perfect garden-to-table solution!

Introduce your clients to small-space edibles. Dwarf plants like Jelly Bean® Blueberry, Raspberry Shortcake®, or Baby Cakes™ Blackberry grow beautifully in containers on a porch or balcony. For a client with a small space garden, select a dwarf apple tree appropriate for the zone and espalier it along a wall.

Help your customers create a veggie container garden with new varieties appropriate for small spaces. Tomato varieties like 'Little Napoli' Compact Roma tomato, which grows just 2-3 feet tall, or Red Robin Cherry, which grows only 8-12 inches high, are perfect solutions for limited space. Likewise, 'Astia' French bush zucchini, bred for small space and container gardens, looks gorgeous on a balcony. And, if your client craves the sweet taste of watermelon but thinks growing it in a small space is impossible, introduce them to Sugar Pot—a watermelon that produces 8-10 pound fruit on vines only 18-20 inches long.

Whether you're a garden coach, designer, or installer, your knowledge of small space edibles will wow your clients, convincing them that yes—they can enjoy a "mini-farm" on the balcony, patio, or small backyard!

Trend: Wildlife Sensitive Environments

The reports of climate change—from the steep decline of North American birds in the past 50 years to wildfires, flooding, and melting Arctic ice—makes ecological, kinder, more "gentle" gardening top the trends list.

It's a good trend for the green industry to promote and practice.

Wildlife sensitive environments use fewer chemicals, focus on soil health, and include tough plants that are naturally pest and disease resistant. Savvy home gardeners and environmentally responsible companies embrace the trend, planting for pollinators and avoiding high maintenance shrubs, trees, and flowers that require chemicals for best performance.

Part of creating a wildlife sensitive environment includes incorporating plants your clients love—but selecting the most environmentally friendly, low maintenance cultivars. For instance, if your client adores roses, consider incorporating Earth-Kind roses or other cultivars with high pest- and disease-resistance to avoid chemical use. If your client requests a backyard wildlife habitat installation, include natives, like American beech, flowering dogwood, trumpet honeysuckle, goldenrod, viburnum, and spicebush in your designs. By giving your client a gorgeous design based on sound environmental practices, it's a win-win: you've created a happy client and protected the environment.

Trend: Water-wise Gardening

Along with the move towards environmental sustainability, water-wise plants and landscapes increase in popularity each year. Sales of succulents continue to grow, representing the most significant proportion of houseplants sold—and the trend expands into landscapes. With the increased awareness of climate change, xeric designs, and water-saving plants, top trends lists—and it's not going away.

Why should it? With so many stunning drought-tolerant, water-wise plants, your imagination can run wild, creating fabulous installations for clients. Plus, your clients will adore you for creating low-maintenance, lovely landscapes that will look great for years—while helping them feel good about their low environmental impact.

As a supplier, make sure to keep water-wise plants well stocked. This trend will continue to grow.

Trend: Pantone Color of the Year

Do you know that 2020 is the year of "Classic Blue"? For the past two decades, global color guru Pantone® proclaimed a "Color of the Year"—and trend followers everywhere quickly updated their wardrobes and interior décor with splashes of the anointed "it" color. By leveraging the Classic Blue trend, you can help your clients refresh their gardens with a bright burst of on-trend color with "Classic Blue" blooms!

Give your container subscription clients a stylish refresh with fabulous flowers like Geranium Rozanne. Add Eryngium' Big Blue' into your design plans, both for its on-trend color appeal as well as its multi-season interest. Source Classic Blue containers and cushions for outdoor living spaces. And brighten shady beds with the perfect blue flowers and variegated foliage of Polemonium Brise d'Anjou. Using "Classic Blue" to update beds, borders, and containers give your clients a fun, trendy refresh—and increased business for you!

Knowing the Color of the Year also benefits you as a supplier. Make sure to keep Classic Blue plants in inventory.

Whether you embrace one or all of the latest gardening trends, it's always fun to be on top of trends—especially when they can benefit both your business—and your clients!