The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) recently selected this year’s list of Gold Medal Plant winners.

PHS determines these plants for their praiseworthy attributes, such as ease of cultivation, ready commercial availability, wildlife value, weather tolerance, and pest resistance.

The Gold Medal Plant Program was created by PHS and began celebrating qualified plants in 1979. A highly qualified group of judges assesses trees, shrubs, and plant perennials on an annual basis to provide outstanding horticultural selections to nurseries and garden centers, as well as to amateur and professional gardeners. Since the program’s inception, PHS has named over 150 Gold Medal Plants. Including this year’s winners, all plants are indicated for their hardiness in the 5 to 7 hardiness zones, which cover the Mid-Atlantic region, but are also valid in other regions.

“The purpose of Gold Medal Plants is to help gardeners find a plant that is a perfect fit for their garden’s needs,” says Andrew Bunting, PHS Vice President of Public Horticulture, who oversees the PHS Gold Medal Plant Committee in selecting winners each year.

The selection process starts with submissions from many types of horticulturists such as garden designers, home gardeners, landscape architects, nursery owners, and plant propagators. Diverse submissions influence the varied selection of plants chosen for the annual award.

To learn more about the 2021 Gold Medal Plant winners and to see past winners in a user-friendly online database created by PHS, please visit:

2021 Gold Medal Plants

Cercis canadensis ‘Appalachian Red’ 

A cultivar of one of the mid-Atlantic’s best spring-flowering small native trees, ‘Appalachian Red’ has clear, bright rose-pink flowers for 2-3 weeks in April cloaking the tree’s bare branches before the foliage emerges. Appropriate as a street or yard tree for compact spaces. Grows 15-25’.

Planting information: Full sun, part shade, medium water, wildlife value, deer resistant

Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’ 
A slightly more compact selection of our native black-eyed Susan, with smaller foliage that is resistant to disease, this cheerful perennial blooms from July to September. Grows 24”.

Planting information: Full sun, low water, medium water, pollinator, native, deer resistant

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’ 
A hybrid between a tree and herbaceous peony, this selection features dozens of fragrant, semi-double, sulphur-yellow 8” flowers arranged on sturdy stems that don’t require staking. After flowering, foliage retains its rich green throughout the season. Grows 4’.

Planting information: Full sun, medium water, deer resistant

Hydrangea paniculata Bobo® 
A diminutive variety, this heavily flowering shrub features large conical clusters of white flowers beginning in midsummer, which fade to pink and persist into the fall. Blooms on new wood, so tolerant of hard freezes and over pruning. A great choice for the front of the border or in a container. Grows 30-36”.

Planting information: Full sun, part shade, medium water, deer resistant

Platanus x acerfolia Exclamation!™ 
For over a century, the London planetree has been a classic tree in the urban landscape, prized for its grand proportions, pollution tolerance, and beautiful exfoliating bark. Exclamation!™ is an improved cultivar; lightly fruiting, upright pyramidal habit, and most importantly, resistance to anthracnose, which causes premature foliage drop. Grows 60’.

Planting information: Full sun, part sun, shade, high water, medium water, low water

Sarcococca hookeriana ‘Fragrant Valley’ 
An elegant evergreen groundcover with small, glossy foliage, this slowly spreading suckering shrub is perfect for dry shade. A more compact, uniform selection with miniscule, wonderfully fragrant flowers in March. Grows 18”.
Planting information: Part shade, shade, medium water, low water, deer resistant

Dryopteris x australis 
A wonderfully statuesque vertical element in the shade garden, our native Dixie wood fern has bright green, glossy, upright fronds that are mostly evergreen in winter. Grow 4-5’.

Planting information: Full shade, part shade, medium water, deer resistant, native