Crop culture report: Calitunia

September 6, 2005 - 08:39

This plant has the temperature range and mounding habit of a petunia and the flower form, vibrant color and profuse blooming power of a calibrachoa.

The 2005 Pack Trials was abuzz with the introduction of Danziger "Dan" Flower Farm’s Calitunia. A breakthrough in the horticultural trade, the breeders made the world’s first introduction of an intergeneric hybrid cross between popular Solanaceae members petunia and calibrachoa. This cross was the culmination of years of intensive research and dedication to producing a completely new crop that is truly a breeding breakthrough.

Calitunia is intended to be beneficial to growers and consumers. From petunia it inherited great vigor, a uniformly compact mounding habit and lush foliage, making it suitable for beds and borders. From calibrachoa, Calitunia received its floriferous nature and unique flower form. Purple flowers have vivid color and pack profuse blooming power. Intense yellow flower centers draw the eye in and create an appealing warm inner glow.

Hardy in USDA Zones 9-11, Calitunia is very tolerant of extreme weather conditions and grows well outdoors in moderate climates. Its mounding and trailing growth habit makes it appropriate for flowering hanging baskets, window boxes, combination pots, flower beds and landscapes.

Rooting & Planting

With vigorous growth genes from its petunia parent, Calitunia’s rooted cuttings finish fast. Tip cuttings will root in about three weeks. Optimal temperatures for rooting are between 65 and 68° F. Pinching is optional and can be performed about four weeks after rooting while plants are still in liner trays.

Calitunia gives growers several options for production, depending on the needs of their operation and clients. A 4-inch pot with one liner per pot will finish in 4-7 weeks. For a slightly larger 6-inch pot, 1-2 liners will finish in 6-10 weeks. Calitunias make excellent hanging items when 3-4 liners are rooted in 10-inch baskets, with a turnover time of 7-11 weeks.

Growing On

Commercial growers will find Calitunia an easy-to-grow crop with little fuss and maintenance. Growth regulators are optional and may not be required if grown under high light intensities. Calitunia inherits its temperature requirements and tolerances from its petunia relatives and has similar growing requirements. Ideal crop production temperatures are 65-75° F days and 45-55° F nights.

Grow Calitunia in a well-drained, disease-free mix such as a peat/perlite combination. Calitunia did not inherit the pH sensitivity of its calibrachoa parentage. Much like its pH tolerant petunia line, Calitunia performs well with a pH of 5.5-6.0 and an EC from 0.8 to 1.2. For fertility, provide constant feed with a balanced fertilizer containing 250-300 ppm nitrogen. Micronutrient levels should be average, with additional iron-chelate provided. Calitunias prefer moderate moisture levels.

Calitunia is supposed to bloom early, which would make several quick turns possible during a season.

Pests & Diseases

The breeder has not observed any insect problems with Calitunia. Growers should keep an eye out for possible common pest problems such as aphids, white flies and leaf miners. Calitunia can benefit from a standard preventative spray program to control most pests.

Calitunia is also free from major disease concerns. Diseases are possible though, and growers should watch for signs of infection by Botrytis and crown rot. Good sanitation practices and air circulation will go a long way in preventing disease problems. As a preventative, growers may consider using a broad-spectrum fungicidal drench.

Availability

‘Calitunia Purple’ will be available to all U.S. growers through the sales broker system for the 2005/2006 season. Many more Calitunia colors will follow in the very near future.

About The Author

Ellen Wells is the marketing and communications manager for Pen & Petal, Fallbrook, Calif. She works from her office in Boston, Mass. She can be reached by phone at (617) 501-7766 or E-mail at ellen@penandpetal.com.

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