FloraStar Elite Awards: A Greenhouse Performance Trial

July 10, 2003 - 11:14

Variety information

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

The objective of the program is to identify varieties that
perform best in production and to communicate pertinent production information
about these varieties to growers. Plant breeders are making rapid improvements
in varieties, and there are many new varieties and crops being introduced. This
is the first independent program to compare and evaluate varieties in a
production format.

Each crop is grown according to general production
guidelines for the crop. Judging is based on specific characteristics important
to that particular crop, such as time to flower, growth habit, number and/or
size of flowers and marketability.

The best varieties are designated FloraStar Elite
Performers. This award level is reserved for only those varieties that are the
easiest to grow, have excellent marketability and perform well in different
situations and container sizes. Merit Awards are given to a second group of
varieties that also have many good characteristics and are good choices for

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 for
independent evaluations. Growers can use this information in selecting
varieties to try in their own operations with confidence that they have been
subjected to stringent evaluation.

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

We are very grateful to the FloraStar Board of Directors for
their cooperation and support in conducting these trials and for selecting winners
based on our evaluations. It is also important to recognize the breeder
companies who took the risk of entering their varieties in the first year of
this new and very different production trial. These companies were Bodger
Botanicals, Paul Ecke Ranch, Goldsmith Plants, Oglevee Ltd., Selecta First
Class and Suntory.

Double Impatiens

Current commercial varieties have a wide range of vigor. The
more vigorous varieties can be difficult and require significant amounts of
growth regulators. Important variables affecting marketability of double
impatiens are the number of flowers and position of the flowers with respect to
being above or below the foliage.

The double impatiens in these trials were planted one
cutting per 41/2-inch and four per basket. Fertilizer was at 200 ppm of
20-10-20 at each irrigation. PGRs were used based on plant vigor; combinations
of a Bonzi spray at 10 ppm applied week 2 and/or a Bonzi drench at 1 ppm
applied between weeks 3 and 5 were used. Plants in the accompanying pictures are
shown 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. Cameo
Coral 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 red
flower color and early flowering. The flowers are held above the foliage better
than most commercial varieties. It has medium vigor and is easy to control in
41/2-inch containers and in baskets.

Merit Award Winner.
'Cameo Scarlet Surprise' from Oglevee is early flowering, has a large number of
medium-sized flowers held above the foliage and has an attractive bicolor pattern
with white on scarlet. Cameo Scarlet Surprise is slightly more vigorous than
the above varieties but can be controlled well with PGRs in baskets and
41/2-inch containers. In older plants at higher production temperatures, it
tends to have less white coloration in the flowers.

'Double Up Passion' from Bodger Botanicals has very good
flower quality. The flowers are larger and open up more than other double
impatiens varieties. The vigorous growth habit makes it difficult to produce
this variety in a 41/2-inch container. It is better suited for basket
production or other larger forms.


There are several different
growth habits in calibrachoas, but the crop is not mature enough to break out
different series based on growth habit, as is done for some other vegetative
crops. Calibrachoas are long-day plants, and selecting for varieties that are
less sensitive to day length is important in production for early markets. The
varieties that require longer days can produce long stems before flowering in
baskets, which is a less marketable appearance. Some of the trailing types may
have very little flowering on top of the basket and can be difficult in small
containers. Additionally,calibrachoas are subject to microelement deficiencies
(yellow leaves) if media pH is not low enough. This undesirable characteristic
varies with varieties and makes pH control more important for those varieties.
Generally, pH should be below 6.0 for calibrachoas to prevent this problem. The
observations 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 at
200-300 ppm with 20-10-20. One cutting per 41/2-inch and four cuttings per
10-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-ppm
B-Nine spray week 2 or 3 to reduce early elongation and a Sumagic drench at 1
ppm was applied between weeks 3 and 5. The plants pictured are large baskets at
9-10 weeks after planting.

Elite Award Winners style='font-weight:normal'>. 'Spring Fling Yellow' from Bodger Botanicals has
many, smaller-than-average flowers over the entire plant. The flower color is
less stable as the plant ages and some flowers change to terra cotta-like. The
growth habit is an even mound that is very well branched, and it is easy grow
in both baskets and 41/2-inch containers. This variety is slightly vigorous yet
more sensitive to PGRs than most, so it is easy to control. Overall, this is an
attractive plant with excellent form and lots of color due to the number of
flowers. Changes in flower color do not reduce its market appeal. Spring Fling
Yellow received the highest ratings by our judges.

'Spring Fling Salmon' is another
entry from Bodger Botanicals. It flowers early and produces a number of flowers
that are larger than normal. The flower color is nice but is more pink than
salmon. The growth habit is slightly vigorous and mounding with good branching.
Plant size is easily controlled with PGRs for production in baskets and
41/2-inch containers.

Merit Award Winners style='font-weight:normal'>. 'Million Bells Trailing Magenta' from Suntory has
very large magenta flowers complemented by a distinct yellow throat. While
there are fewer flowers than other calibrachoa varieties, these large flowers
stand out from the foliage. It has a very good plant form that is moderately
trailing but is more intermediate, between a fully trailing and a mounding
growth habit. If early growth is controlled and it is not allowed to be too
vigorous, baskets will keep flowers on top. Million Bells Trailing Magenta can
work in a basket or 41/2-inch container.

'MiniFamous Peach' from Selecta
First Class has a nice, unique flower color with average-sized flowers. It has
good branching and a moderate trailing habit that can be done in both a basket
and 41/2-inch container. The problem with this variety was that it was the last
to flower in the winter trial but flowered quickly in the May trial, which
means it probably will not do well in Southern markets. However, in later
markets, it is very good and easy to produce.

'MiniFamous Cherry Pink' from
Selecta First Class has large flowers with an intense cherry red color, which
makes a very attractive basket. It has a uniform, moderately trailing growth
habit. It is slightly vigorous but is easily controlled with PGRs. It will keep
flowers on top of a basket if early growth is controlled and it is not allowed
to be too vigorous. Leaf yellowing can be a problem if media pH is not

'Sweetheart Lavender' from
Selecta First Class has nice lavender flowers, which are very attractive
against the green foliage. It has a moderately mounding habit that keeps
flowers on top of the basket. Vigor is medium and is easily controlled with
PGRs. It is slightly more prone to microelement deficiency at higher pH. style="mso-spacerun: yes">

About The Author

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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