FloraStar Elite Awards: A Greenhouse Performance Trial By Jim Barrett, Erika Berghauer and Phillip Hamilton

Variety information

FloraStar, in cooperation with the University of Florida,has selected the winners of the first FloraStar Elite Performer trials that aredesigned to evaluate how well a variety performs for the grower. The programwill focus on vegetative annuals, spring crops and specialty seed items. Thisyear’s trial included calibrachoa and double impatiens. In the future, 4-6crops will be evaluated each year. The production trials are conducted at theUniversity of Florida, and the entries are also included in the landscapetrials at North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University andColorado State University.

The objective of the program is to identify varieties thatperform best in production and to communicate pertinent production informationabout these varieties to growers. Plant breeders are making rapid improvementsin varieties, and there are many new varieties and crops being introduced. Thisis the first independent program to compare and evaluate varieties in aproduction format.

Each crop is grown according to general productionguidelines for the crop. Judging is based on specific characteristics importantto that particular crop, such as time to flower, growth habit, number and/orsize of flowers and marketability.

The best varieties are designated FloraStar ElitePerformers. This award level is reserved for only those varieties that are theeasiest to grow, have excellent marketability and perform well in differentsituations and container sizes. Merit Awards are given to a second group ofvarieties that also have many good characteristics and are good choices forgrowers.

The trials are not designed to test all varieties of a crop,but to determine the best ones of those varieties submitted by the breeder forindependent evaluations. Growers can use this information in selectingvarieties to try in their own operations with confidence that they have beensubjected to stringent evaluation.

The double impatiens and calibrachoa in the 2003 trial weregrown at two separate times (winter and spring) and in both 41/2- and 10-inchbaskets each time. Additionally, double impatiens were grown in a 14-inch colorbowl. Both the 41/2-inch containers and baskets were grown with two differentplant growth regulator (PGR) regimes to produce a smaller finished plantsimilar to mass market production and a larger plant more typical of a productgoing to an independent retailer. This resulted in each variety being growneight or nine different ways.

We are very grateful to the FloraStar Board of Directors fortheir cooperation and support in conducting these trials and for selecting winnersbased on our evaluations. It is also important to recognize the breedercompanies who took the risk of entering their varieties in the first year ofthis new and very different production trial. These companies were BodgerBotanicals, Paul Ecke Ranch, Goldsmith Plants, Oglevee Ltd., Selecta FirstClass and Suntory.

Double Impatiens

Current commercial varieties have a wide range of vigor. Themore vigorous varieties can be difficult and require significant amounts ofgrowth regulators. Important variables affecting marketability of doubleimpatiens are the number of flowers and position of the flowers with respect tobeing above or below the foliage.

The double impatiens in these trials were planted onecutting per 41/2-inch and four per basket. Fertilizer was at 200 ppm of20-10-20-at-each irrigation. PGRs were used based on plant vigor; combinationsof a Bonzi spray at 10 ppm applied week 2 and/or a Bonzi drench at 1 ppmapplied between weeks 3 and 5 were used. Plants in the accompanying pictures areshown six weeks after planting.

Elite Award Winners.’Cameo Coral’ from Oglevee has early flowering, attractive flower color,larger-than-average flower size and many flowers held above the foliage. CameoCoral has a good growth habit for baskets and 41/2-inch container production.The medium plant vigor is easily controllable with PGRs.

‘Double Up Red’ from Bodger Botanicals has very nice redflower color and early flowering. The flowers are held above the foliage betterthan most commercial varieties. It has medium vigor and is easy to control in41/2-inch containers and in baskets.

Merit Award Winner.’Cameo Scarlet Surprise’ from Oglevee is early flowering, has a large number ofmedium-sized flowers held above the foliage and has an attractive bicolor patternwith white on scarlet. Cameo Scarlet Surprise is slightly more vigorous thanthe above varieties but can be controlled well with PGRs in baskets and41/2-inch containers. In older plants at higher production temperatures, ittends to have less white coloration in the flowers.

‘Double Up Passion’ from Bodger Botanicals has very goodflower quality. The flowers are larger and open up more than other doubleimpatiens varieties. The vigorous growth habit makes it difficult to producethis variety in a 41/2-inch container. It is better suited for basketproduction or other larger forms.

Calibrachoa

There are several differentgrowth habits in calibrachoas, but the crop is not mature enough to break outdifferent series based on growth habit, as is done for some other vegetativecrops. Calibrachoas are long-day plants, and selecting for varieties that areless sensitive to day length is important in production for early markets. Thevarieties that require longer days can produce long stems before flowering inbaskets, which is a less marketable appearance. Some of the trailing types mayhave very little flowering on top of the basket and can be difficult in smallcontainers. Additionally,calibrachoas are subject to microelement deficiencies(yellow leaves) if media pH is not low enough. This undesirable characteristicvaries with varieties and makes pH control more important for those varieties.Generally, pH should be below 6.0 for calibrachoas to prevent this problem. Theobservations of leaf yellowing included here are based on media pH of 6.0-6.2.Varieties that displayed leaf yellow at high pH did fine when pH was below 6.0.

Calibrachoa fertilization was at200-300 ppm with 20-10-20. One cutting per 41/2-inch and four cuttings per10-inch basket were used. Cuttings were pinched at planting or after one week.PGR use depended on vigor of the individual variety. Some received a 2,500-ppmB-Nine spray week 2 or 3 to reduce early elongation and a Sumagic drench at 1ppm was applied between weeks 3 and 5. The plants pictured are large baskets at9-10 weeks after planting.

Elite Award Winners. ‘Spring Fling Yellow’ from Bodger Botanicals hasmany, smaller-than-average flowers over the entire plant. The flower color isless stable as the plant ages and some flowers change to terra cotta-like. Thegrowth habit is an even mound that is very well branched, and it is easy growin both baskets and 41/2-inch containers. This variety is slightly vigorous yetmore sensitive to PGRs than most, so it is easy to control. Overall, this is anattractive plant with excellent form and lots of color due to the number offlowers. Changes in flower color do not reduce its market appeal. Spring FlingYellow received the highest ratings by our judges.

‘Spring Fling Salmon’ is anotherentry from Bodger Botanicals. It flowers early and produces a number of flowersthat are larger than normal. The flower color is nice but is more pink thansalmon. The growth habit is slightly vigorous and mounding with good branching.Plant size is easily controlled with PGRs for production in baskets and41/2-inch containers.

Merit Award Winners. ‘Million Bells Trailing Magenta’ from Suntory hasvery large magenta flowers complemented by a distinct yellow throat. Whilethere are fewer flowers than other calibrachoa varieties, these large flowersstand out from the foliage. It has a very good plant form that is moderatelytrailing but is more intermediate, between a fully trailing and a moundinggrowth habit. If early growth is controlled and it is not allowed to be toovigorous, baskets will keep flowers on top. Million Bells Trailing Magenta canwork in a basket or 41/2-inch container.

‘MiniFamous Peach’ from SelectaFirst Class has a nice, unique flower color with average-sized flowers. It hasgood branching and a moderate trailing habit that can be done in both a basketand 41/2-inch container. The problem with this variety was that it was the lastto flower in the winter trial but flowered quickly in the May trial, whichmeans it probably will not do well in Southern markets. However, in latermarkets, it is very good and easy to produce.

‘MiniFamous Cherry Pink’ fromSelecta First Class has large flowers with an intense cherry red color, whichmakes a very attractive basket. It has a uniform, moderately trailing growthhabit. It is slightly vigorous but is easily controlled with PGRs. It will keepflowers on top of a basket if early growth is controlled and it is not allowedto be too vigorous. Leaf yellowing can be a problem if media pH is notcontrolled.

‘Sweetheart Lavender’ fromSelecta First Class has nice lavender flowers, which are very attractiveagainst the green foliage. It has a moderately mounding habit that keepsflowers on top of the basket. Vigor is medium and is easily controlled withPGRs. It is slightly more prone to microelement deficiency at higher pH.



Jim Barrett, Erika Berghauer and Phillip Hamilton

Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture, Erika Berghauer a graduate research assistant and Phillip Hamilton is research assistant at the University of Florida, Gainsville, Fla. They can be reached by phone at (352) 392-1831 x248 or E-mail at jbarrett@mail.ifas.ufl.edu.



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