Pack Trial Curiosities By Rick Schoellhorn, University of Florida

Details on some of this year’s new vegetative introductions

I selected the following plants because they are easy toproduce or offer a very specialized look. All of these plants have a place inthe component plant world and most will add something different to anycontainer. This is by no means all of the incredible new crops I saw at PackTrials this year but a good sampling of some new directions in cropdevelopment.

Angelonia

I need to start with Angelonia, even though we did a featurearticle on this plant in the March issue, because within the last year, manymajor suppliers have introduced Angelonias. The Angelmist series from BallFloraplant is the only series I have trialed. It is a very strong series and ahuge leap in genetics. However, I’m really looking forward to seeing howthe new series compare in our 2003 trials in Florida.

The Flower Fields released the Carita series, and plantslooked very strong, with good, new colors. EuroAmerican/Proven Winners releasedthe Angelface series, which had some of the largest flowers I have seen.Flowers were so close to overlapping that the plants resembled a smallDelphinium. Angelonia seems to be getting better with age.

Sedum

Succulents is one of the most interesting groups of plantsreturning to the market. With all the drought issues, I suppose it was anatural fit, but I think there is a lot of promise in these plants. Theytolerate full sun, extremely dry conditions and a lot of customer abuse. Theonly drawback is they are intolerant to low light and wet feet.

EuroAmerican/Proven Winners is releasing Sedum ‘Angelina’,a green-gold sedum with a loose growth habit. Ball FloraPlant is releasing’Coral Reef’ and ‘Sea Stars’. Sea Stars is a veryfine-textured, gray mass that forms a globe as it spills over the container.’Coral Reef’ has a coarser texture and looks like the old’Dragon’s Blood Sedum’ but with refined foliage.

I really think there is a lot to be said for reintroducingthese plants — they are tough and many are cold-hardy. For Southerngrowers, these should be considered a spring crop, as rains and high nighttemperatures are usually pretty tough on sedums.

Sedums will be the focus of trialing in Florida next year tosee if we can find some heat and humidity tolerance in the group. Also, checkout the living succulent wreathes made by a variety of suppliers, as an exampleof how you can market these plants.

Production guidelines for Sedum:

Fertilization. Liquid feed at 150-250 ppm on alternate waterings.Slow-release can be used at low rates. Too much fertilizer results in weakenedgrowth and increased fungal problems.

Watering. Water only when dry. If a lot of roots form above the soil,you are applying too much water, and plants will ship poorly and break moreeasily.

Media. All commercial peat lite medias work fine, pH 5.8-6.8.

Production Temperatures. Range from 55-85º F. Fasterbut more elongated growth at high temperatures.

Light level. Full sun or as bright as you can make it. Once hardened,sedums can take intense light and still grow well.

Propagation. Cuttings. In most cases, each leaflet will root and form anew plant.

Crop timing. One-gallon container takes 5-7 weeks from rooted liner.Eight-inch hanging baskets (three liners per) take 8-10 weeks. No pinchrequired.

Flowering. Spring flowering. Flowers are a bonus but not alwaysspectacular.

Common problems. Few pests, just watering-related problems.

Thunbergia alata

Thunbergia alata, the Black Eyed Suzie Vine, is making acomeback. You can still buy seed Á for this old-fashioned annual, butthe vegetative forms have superior quality, with larger flowers and reliablecolors. This plant fell out of favor over 10 years ago and is now back in suchhigh demand that almost everyone ran out of stock before the season gotstarted. It is a good, easy plant for hanging basket and trellis production.Just don’t let it get away from you. This is a fast-growing plant withtwining stems that needs support immediately after planting. Thunbergia areavailable from Horticultural Marketing Associates and Ball FloraPlant, as wellas many seed companies throughout the United States.

Production guidelines for Thunbergia alata:

Fertilization. Liquid feed at 150-250 ppm or low to medium levels ofslow-release. Over-fertilizing delays flowering and produces more growth thanyou’ll be able to handle.

Watering. Keep evenly irrigated. Repeated drought stress will causeleaves to yellow, and it is difficult to get back a good green. Micronutrientsolutions can help if this becomes a problem.

Media. All commercial peat lite medias work fine, pH 5.6-7.0

Production Temperatures. Grows well from 65-80º F.Faster but more elongated growth at high temps with increased chance of spidermites.

Light level. Full sun.

Propagation. Seed or cuttings.

Crop timing. One-gallon (on trellis) takes 5-6 weeks from rooted liner.Eight-inch hanging baskets (three liners per) take 6-8 weeks. No pinchrequired. You can pinch all you want, but it will simply keep growing!

Flowering. Flowers continuously all summer. Flowering reduces ifplants become root-bound or drought-stressed.

Common problems. Spider mites, thrips, rarely mealy bug.

Note: If you like Thunbergia, look for Thunbergiabattescombeii, with royal blue trumpet flowers and a good basket habit.

Anigozanthus hybrids — Kangaroo Paw

Whever people see this unique plant they do a double-take.Kangaroo Paw looks like an iris but flowers with small, fuzzy clusters of verylong-lasting, brightly colored blooms in tones of orange, red and yellow.Larger cultivars make excellent specialty cuts or landscape plants in cool, dryclimates. Bodger Botanicals has two types: the Kanga series, which is a bitlarger and good for landscape and large mixed containers, and the Joey Paws,with a more compact habit best suited to 4- and 6-inch production. These arehigh-dollar, show-stopper flowering plants that can help establish a marketniche.

Production guidelines for Anigozanthus:

Fertilization. Use a low-phosphorus formulation for best results. Liquidfeed at 150-200 ppm or a low level of slow-release. Intermittent clear waterirrigation will help keep salts low.

Watering. Allow plants to dry slightly between waterings. If lightlevels or temperatures are low, this becomes even more important. Avoidafternoon watering. When plants begin to actively grow and set flowers morewater will be needed.

Media. Fast-draining, peat lite media. With a pH of 5.5-6.5, avoidheavy mixes with poor air exchange.

Production Temperatures. Day temperatures of 65-75º Fand night 60-65º F.

Light level. Bright light, 1,500-3,500 foot candles, is essential forstrong plants. Cool conditions with high light levels are ideal.

Propagation. Although seed for Anigozanthus is available, germinationand growth are fairly specialized, so most growers will choose liners.

Crop timing. From liner, 1-gallon takes 12-16 weeks, 2-gallon takes anadditional four weeks.

Flowering. Flowering under short days, reinforced by cool nights.

Light Level. High light.

Problems. Rust, Pythium and Alternaria. Use copper-based fungicides.

Firecracker Fuchsia

Tucked away in a corner of Oglevee’s retail displaywas a plant that never gets enough press. A variegated form of Fuchsia’Gartenmeister Bonstadt’, it is renowned for its heat tolerance andhas definite possibilities for U.S. production. Green leaves, margined in creamand wine tones, with vivid red-orange flowers make for an eye-catchingcombination. Because this is a mostly upright form, it makes a great componentplant for shady containers. Definitely one for the cooler-climate people tomake the most of, and hopefully we will see some performance in the South.

Production guidelines for Firecracker Fuchsia: This plantcan be grown under the same conditions as any other fuchsia with excellentresults.

Revenge of the Monkey Flower

Monkey flowers, Mimulus hybrids, were always a bit finickywhen I was growing up in California but worth the trouble because of theirhuge, colorful flowers. They look like an Angelonia on steroids, with blooms upto three inches. Sakata’s line of Mystic annual Mimulus are verystrong-flowering plants with large flowers. They are great in baskets andunusual enough to stop customers. This is an exceptional group for nurseries incooler climates. Colors include : yellow, white, bicolor, red, orange and roseshades.

The new Jelly Bean series from The Flower Fields appears tobe derived from a native Mimulus species that grew on the coastal cliffs inCentral and Southern California. In general, these plants have a much differenthabit than the annual types, more mounding with spiked flower clusters and anoverall larger size. There is still a bit of cultural work to be done on theJelly Bean series, but with good drainage and some patience, these will beexcellent plants for the West and South.

Production guidelines for Mimulus:

Fertilization. Liquid feed at 150 ppm or low rate of slow-release.

Watering. Keep evenly irrigated. Avoid drought stress, which leads toleaf drop and overall loss of vigor.

Media. All commercial peat lite medias work fine, pH 5.6-7.0

Production Temperatures. Maintain 55-75º F days withcooler nights.

Light level. Full sun best, the mystic series might benefit from shade.

Propagation. Seed orcuttings. Seed is usually pelleted, as it is very fine.

Crop timing. Scheduling Mystic from plugs is similar to mostfast-cropping bedding plants. Jelly Bean is a bit more uncertain; 1-galloncould take 8-12 weeks, with at least one pinch.

Flowering. Peak flowering in spring but also into the summer.

Common problems. Spider mites, nutritional disorders, overwatering.



Rick Schoellhorn, University of Florida

Rick Schoellhorn is assistant professor of Floriculture at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. He can be reached by phone at (352) 392-1831 or E-mail at rksch@ifas.ufl.edu.



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