The Five Best New Trees and Shrubs of 2021

If you like shrubs with dark leaves, three new ones are on the way for spring 2021 along with a super-compact clematis vine and a miniature version of the popular Knock Out rose.

The rundown on these five top new plants of 2021:

Growing best in pots or hanging baskets, Clematis Little Lemons is sure to bring your front porch a beautiful pop of spring. Credit: Concept Plants BV®

Clematis Little Lemons

Breeders at Concept Plants have come up with a new, non-vining, super-compact clematis vine that’s more at home in a pot, hanging basket, or serving as a groundcover than growing up a trellis.

Clematis Little Lemons grows only about a foot tall and spreads about two feet. It blooms in hanging, bell-shaped, bright-yellow flowers from May into September. Plants do well in full sun to part shade and are hardy in Zones 5-9.

Ninebark Sweet Cherry Tea is compact, dark-leafed, and reblooms, too. Credit: Plants Nouveau

Ninebark Sweet Cherry Tea

This new version of a dark-leafed native shrub from Plants Nouveau also reblooms and is one of the most compact ninebarks yet.

Ninebark Sweet Cherry Tea tops out at a bushy three feet tall and wide. The foliage starts out wine-red and ages to deep maroon and stays that color until fall. It’s covered in soft-pink flowers in early summer and then flowers sporadically again in late summer and fall. Like other ninebarks, Sweet Cherry Tea is very cold-hardy (Zones 3-7), drought-tolerant once established, and best grown in full sun.

Sweetshrub ‘Burgundy Spice’

This dark-leaf sweetshrub from New Jersey’s Pleasant Run Nursery gives a radical new look to an old-fashioned native shrub.

Sweetshrub ‘Burgundy Spice’ has the familiar fruity-fragrant, late-spring maroon flowers of this species, but it sports dark burgundy-purple foliage instead of green leaves. The foliage then turns a blend of yellow and amber in fall. Plants grow six to eight feet tall and wide and do best in full sun to part shade. They’re also deer resistant and hardy in Zones 5-9.

Elderberry Laced Up grows upright with nearly black foliage. Credit: Proven Winners

Elderberry Laced Up

A third new version of a dark-leafed shrub is this unusually narrow form of elderberry from Proven Winners. Elderberry Laced Up has foliage that’s nearly black and lacy like the popular but bigger Black Lace variety. However, the plant’s habit is upright to six to eight feet tall but only three to four feet wide

Plants tolerate poor soil and flower pink in early summer. They’ll produce some berry-like black fall fruits if pollinated by Black Lace or Black Beauty. Laced Up grows in full sun to part shade and is hardy in Zones 4-7.

Petite Knock Out is the first miniature rose in the Knock Out family, growing only about 18 inches tall and wide. Credit: Star Roses and Plants

Petite Knock Out Roses

The long-blooming, disease-resistant Knock Out family of roses has been one of the top-selling landscape plants for years.

New for 2021 is the first miniature Knock Out – a red-blooming variety called Petite Knock Out that grows only 18 inches tall and wide. Petite Knock Out blooms non-stop almost all season long and also comes in a miniature tree form (a “standard”). Plants do best in full to light shade and are hardy in Zones 5-10.

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