For the first time in its nearly 200-year-long history, the Philadelphia Flower Show is headed outdoors. For nine days, June 5-13, the show will fill FDR park with colorful floral and plant displays, along with educational installations and activity-based hubs.

This year’s theme is HABITAT, Nature’s Masterpiece, a nod to the positive impact that plants and gardening have on our communities and lived environment. Timed to the height of gardening season, the show will span 450,000 square feet, a 45% increase compared to previous Convention Center shows. It will also feature the largest number of designers the show has ever seen, including newcomers Wambui Ippolito, a NYC-based horticulturist who works for Martha Stewart, and Donald Pell, a designer of immersive gardens that play off of the existing natural landscape.

Here’s what else to expect.

What’s in this year’s show

Stretching across 15 acres of the 348-acre FDR park, this year’s show will be divided into three “districts”.

The centerpiece of the show is the design district, with 27 large-scale floral and landscape displays created by a nationwide lineup of new and returning designers. “They will showcase the ‘wow’ factor this show is known for, as well as illustrate popular and innovative trends in garden and floral design,” says Sam Lemheney, chief of shows and events for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS).

You can expect to see towering floral sculptures as well plants never seen at the show before. “Now that we’re moving to June, the [designers’] plant palette has just exploded,” says Lemheney. “The designers become like kids in a candy store.”

Inside the plant district, you’ll find a curated version of the Horticourt, the show’s annual competition that features prized plants of local gardeners and apartment windowsill tenders. Plants in their prime are displayed individually, designed to inspire and educate you about what you can grow in your own home.

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An 80-foot by 200-foot tent will house this year’s Horticourt. Entry will be capped to allow for social distancing, and judging will not take place. Instead, plants will be divided into educational categories, like “indoor plants” and “plants for beginners”, selected from previous Horticourt competitors who were invited to participate.

The plant district will also host a brand-new plant gallery that showcases some of the newest and trendiest plant varieties for purchase, along with an array of plant displays from plant societies and other vendors.

The garden district is designed for the DIY gardener. Here, PHS will host educational exhibits with experts to field questions. Gardening clubs, local universities and high schools, and other vendors will offer home gardening advice and showcase creative small-space displays. And the show’s annual Butterfly Live! Experience will allow you to see native butterflies up close and engage in discussions on pollinator plants. (You must purchase $5 Butterfly Live! tickets in advance.)

Although not quite as robust as in past years, a calendar of events is planned, too. An evening fundraiser is set for opening day (June 5), and you can purchase tickets for a special afternoon of family programming June 12. That night is Flowers After Hours, an evening soirée that encourages visitors to dress in their best floral-themed attire and see the show while enjoying live music.

The show will also feature an array of themed food and drinks, including park picnics available for pre-order. There will also be a food bazaar with multiple food stalls, a beer garden located in the garden district, and seating for picnickers beneath FDR’s boathouse overlooking Meadow Lake.

Tickets and safety precautions

PHS announced plans to move outside in August, when there was no clear timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine. Billed as the “largest indoor flower show in the world,” the show moves from the Convention Center, where it’s been held for the past two dozen years, typically in March.

Started in 1829 by PHS, the Flower Show attracts an average of 250,000 people per year. In 2020, the show saw a slight drop in attendance numbers as news reports on COVID-19 started ramping up in its second week.

This year, attendance will be capped to allow for social distancing. PHS has been working closely with city officials to determine what that cap will be. “We probably won’t know exact numbers until we get closer to the show,” says Lemheney. PHS has also been in continuous conversation with event experts and city officials to plan for a safe environment that includes date- and time-specific ticketing.

Now that the City of Philadelphia has updated its mask policies, the Flower Show will be following those rules: Fully vaccinated people are recommended but not required to wear masks outdoors and required to wear masks indoors. If you’re not fully vaccinated, you are required to wear a mask except when eating and drinking. Even if you are vaccinated, you should still bring a mask to the Flower Show: You’ll need it for all indoor spaces.

“This event is one of the first key public events taking place in 2021 and signals the safe reopening of Philadelphia,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at a press conference in March.

The Flower Show was also one of the last major public events in the city before the pandemic broke.

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What happens if it rains?

“We picked the first week in June because we looked at the Farmers’ Almanac and did our research and determined that was probably the driest week of the summer,” says Lemheney. “There are some challenges here, but if we do have rain, this is a season where the plants would actually be growing, and gardens love rain.”

The event is rain or shine. Security and event staff will monitor inclement weather, but unless it turns severe, guests will be encouraged to “bring their umbrella and galoshes”, says Lemheney.

Tickets are limited and can be purchased in advance online. You will need to select a date and time window: either 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.. (Opening day hours are slightly different; tickets are available for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) With an upgraded ticket, you can also book a guided early-morning tour before the show opens to the public.

Tickets can also be purchased on-site. Meaning, you can buy your Flower Show ticket once you get to FDR Park.

Tours are available from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., June. 6-13, and tickets run $110 each. For more information, visit phsonline.org.

Location: FDR Park, Pattison Ave. and Broad St.

Dates/hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 5 (opening day), 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 6-13

Pricing: $45, for adults, $30 for those ages 18-29 years old (only available during weekday afternoons), $20 for children ages 5-17 years old, free for children 4 years old and under

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