Your Guide to the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show
The show returns to the Convention Center for 2023 — and it’s brought some of the outdoor joy along with it. Here’s everything to see, do, and know before you go.
For its past couple of years, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Flower Show got a COVID refresh, moving outdoors to FDR Park and from March to June. Results and reviews of the new FDR Park iteration were mixed. Complaints included transportation, lines, food options, weather (it was hot and rainy, depending on when your tickets happened to be), and too much walking, amongst others.
But this reimagining was also a brilliant way to keep the tradition going while making the event more accessible to different people. Families had more space in which to tool around without running afoul of the gardening purists, and installations built to withstand the elements were less “look but don’t touch” than their pre-pandemic predecessors, making the whole experience more immersive and interactive. Plus, flowers outside in the sunshine are a little more idyllic than blossoms beneath the bleak ceiling beams and lighting of a convention center.
As someone who always appreciated the artistry of the Flower Show gardens but has zero skill or interest in keeping my own garden, I found the added interactivity (and Instagram-worthiness) of the pandemic version less stuffy. I thought it had elements that seemed necessary to keep it relevant and successful going forward.
So I was mostly disappointed to return to the show’s original climate-controlled Convention Center confines — and late-winter time slot — this year. I also didn’t know what to expect when PHS last year announced 2023’s theme, “The Garden Electric,” describing it as “that spark of joy that comes while giving or receiving flowers.” (This was pretty abstract compared to previous indoor themes that have included Hawaii, Paris, and the ’60s-focused “Flower Power” of 2019.) So the theme was … florals? For the Flower Show? Groundbreaking.
And while there’s no getting around the fact that the Flower Show is, in fact, set against the backdrop of a stark convention center, this year’s iteration suggests that the outdoor pivot did the show some good. This isn’t a strict return to form — it’s better.
“Design choices are intentionally being made to mimic the feel of being outdoors in nature by creating larger displays that surround guests,” PHS creative director Seth Pearsoll explained. Garden installations are bigger and more welcoming. You can walk through far more of them than you ever could at past indoor shows, and some invite viewers to do more than just walk and look around — one requires guests to lie down to see the details in a floral chandelier; another plays with lighting effects and mirrors for some unique kaleidoscopic photo ops.
From a sparkly disco to the candy shop to trippy multi-media, the artists have interpreted the joyful “electric” theme in fresh ways, and the installations, combined with a larger footprint for play, result in a Flower Show that takes itself a little less seriously while still devoting a healthy amount of its space and mission to gardening for the originalists among us.
As if flaunting the ability to once again control temperature and lighting, many installations make use of lighting effects, screens and other media not possible in the great outdoors of South Philly.
So whether you’re there to pick up some gardening tips, spend the day with family, or just take in the colorful artistry, here’s what you’ll want to know for your visit to this year’s Flower Show.
Now in its 195th year, the Flower Show showcases designers, gardens and floral displays along with food and merchandise vendors. Expect dozens of gorgeous larger-than-life floral installations plus some hands-on activities for kids and adults alike.
As in the past, the main hall includes the entrance garden, leading to the promenade of large-scale artistic installations, followed by the Horticourt — that’s where you’ll find more gardening-focused displays, demonstrations (including Potting Parties), and competitive categories ranging from miniatures to botanical jewelry to doorway displays. The rest of the main hall is devoted to the Marketplace. This year, the show spills over into the concourse and a new Bloom City area with more vendors, craft activities, live butterflies and a kids’ play area — another welcome carryover from the FDR Park version.
The show runs from March 4th to 12th, and your tickets are good for any of those days.
Things to Do
Head to the Marketplace to shop at 100-plus vendors. In addition to all the various gardening items you’d expect, you’ll find everything from jewelry to kids’ clothes (Adorned by Aisha and Sew Much Cooler are a couple favorites) to home goods and personal-care products.
If you’re not content to marvel at flowers and shop for various flower-adjacent (and completely unrelated) items, there are some special activities to look for. Every day, you can visit Artisan Row to make crafts alongside horticultural artisans — flower crowns, candles and jewelry, among other items. You can also build a succulent terrarium or a dried-flower arrangement. Each craft is an add-on, with prices ranging from $20 to $25. (If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own flower crown, head to the Bloom Bar inside the main hall to buy one for $33.)
Artisan Row is part of the show’s new Bloom City area, a spread-out breath of (relatively) fresh air compared to the crowded main event. This area also contains lounge areas and additional vendors (including a sports-fan favorite, Exit343design).
If you’re coming with kids, don’t miss out on the new (and free) Cocoon play area, also in Bloom City, where you’ll find open play, crafts, story times and even seesaws. A holdover from the outdoor shows, this is a welcome addition for parents attending with energetic little ones. Also available here as an add-on every day of the show: Butterflies Live! Armed only with a Q-tip coated in sugar-water, enter a pollinator garden full of exotic butterflies and snap the perfect selfie with some fluttery friends. This exhibit requires an additional $5 ticket, available online.
Inspired to grow your own garden? Attend a $10 Potting Party to learn container gardening (so even if you don’t have a yard, you can exercise your green thumb), then take home your creation. These parties are offered daily inside the show.
The final weekend of the show pulls out all the stops for kids of all ages, adults-only glamour fans, and even furry friends.
First up is Fido Friday, on March 10th from 5 to 8 p.m. That’s when you can bring your four-legged companions for the afternoon. They have to stay on-leash, but they don’t require an additional ticket — and costumes are welcome, obviously.
If you’re looking to experience your flowers with a more adult-oriented crew, grab a ticket for Flowers After Hours, the show’s annual after-hours 21-and-up event that features live music, cabaret entertainment, and cocktails. This year’s theme is “Garden Noir,” and the dress code is all-black, with a masquerade-style mask. That party will be held on March 11th from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m., and tickets are $75.
For maximum kid-friendliness, book a ticket for the last day of the show, March 12th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for the Family Frolic. It offers music, hands-on fun, a scavenger hunt, face-painting, and visits from local Philadelphia partners and institutions, including the African American Museum, PAFA, the Kimmel Cultural Campus, the Planet Bee Foundation, and the Museum of Illusions.
And if all that’s not enough for you, the flower-themed splendor has inspired some specials around Philly, from cocktails to spa treatments.
If you want to make a whole day (and night) of it, head to the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. Its Flower Show package includes two tickets to the show, two themed cocktails at on-site restaurant Bank & Bourbon, and 20 percent off spa services. (On-site spa Joseph Anthony Salon and Spa also has botanically-themed treatments and enhancements for the occasion.)
The Rittenhouse Hotel’s Mary Cassatt Tea Room is introducing a specialty lineup of floral teas and desserts for the duration of the show that includes the return of its butterfly-pea-flower infusion (my daughter’s favorite, because it’s blue) and a new blooming tea brewed with a hand-sewn jasmine flower you can watch blossom in its clear glass teapot.
For the duration of the show, Art in the Age is bringing back a fan favorite from last year: The Lavender Negroni ($14) is crafted with Damson Plum Gin, Dolin dry vermouth, Campari, lavender bitters and tonic and garnished with a fresh sprig of lavender clothespinned directly onto the glass. Also in Old City, Forsythia has created a floral-forward cocktail, the “Isaly Roses On Your Grave,” made with Laphroaig, Génépy, rose liqueur, grapefruit and lemon.
Plan Your Trip
The Philadelphia Flower Show takes place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 12th and Arch streets. It runs from March 4th through 12th.
Tickets are available online and cost $43.50 for adults, $30 for students ages 18 to 24 (with valid ID), $20 for kids ages five through 17, and free for children four and under. Family bundles are available at online ticketing to save you a little money in advance. Add-ons like crafts and the live butterfly encounter are extra.
A benefit of the Flower Show moving from FDR Park back to the Convention Center: It couldn’t be easier to get there. It’s a quick walk from City Hall (if you’re coming on the Broad Street Line) and 13th Street Station (on the Market-Frankford Line), and it sits directly on top of Jefferson Station on the Regional Rail, those of you coming from the ‘burbs.