The GNPS plant of the year program started in 2000 but the plant of the year t-shirt program did not begin until 2003 when Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) was the first plant to be featured.
Over the years, the designs of the shirts have changed in several ways. Most t-shirts were designed to have the picture on the back of the shirt, but several did have it on the front. The pocket design has been varied over the years, from plain to logo to even using parts of the shirt design to create a unique pocket design. The merchandise chair was usually in charge of implementing the t-shirts: soliciting the design, choosing the colors of the shirt, and whether the shirts would be unisex only or include ladies’ cut and long-sleeve. Silkscreen was used to print the shirts except for 2 years when they were digitally printed (in the hopes of being able to print more quickly but the design was subject to fading). In 2021, because of the wider distribution of members, GNPS stopped printing shirts and went to an on-demand digital print site where people could order their own shirt, choosing from different styles and colors of shirts.
For several years, there was a unique shirt color chosen for the plant sale volunteers.
A number of designers have contributed, including GNPS members and friends of members.
2003 – Foamflower, member Shannon Pable, design on back
2004 – Serviceberry, member Shannon Pable, design on back
2005 – Sourwood, member Shannon Pable, design on back
2006 – Cardinal flower, member Shannon Pable, design on front
2007 – Virginia sweetspire, member Shannon Pable, design on front
2008 – Christmas fern, designer unknown, design on front
2009 – White oak, designer unknown, design on back, decorative pocket; digitally printed
2010 – Butterflyweed, member James Honeycutt, design on back, decorative pocket; digitally printed
2011 – Mapleleaf viburnum, member James Honeycutt, design on back
2012 – Bloodroot, Jenn Smith, design on back
2013 – Sassafras, Jenn Smith, design on back
2014 – Red buckeye, member James Honeycutt, design on back
2015 – Georgia aster, Megan Hamilton, design on back, decorative pocket
2016 – Indian pink, Paige Castle, design on back
2017 – Sweet Betsy trillium, Megan Kibby, design on back, decorative pocket
2018 – Beautyberry, Jenn Smith, design on back, decorative pocket
2019 – Coral honeysuckle, Jenn Smith, design on back, decorative pocket
2020 – Mountain mint, member Linda Fraser, design on front
2021 – Fringetree, Jenn Smith, design on front; digitally printed via direct order
Prior to the POY shirts, GNPS t-shirts had the logo on the front and were printed in unisex short and long-sleeve in a variety of shirt colors (light color shirts had dark ink while dark shirts had light ink). The logo shirt was reprinted in 2019 with the extra text “Celebrating 25 years: 1994-2019”.