Pack Trial Curiosities

July 9, 2002 - 12:21

Details on some of this year’s new vegetative introductions

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

Angelonia

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

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

Sedum

Succulents is one of the most interesting groups of plants
returning to the market. With all the drought issues, I suppose it was a
natural fit, but I think there is a lot of promise in these plants. They
tolerate full sun, extremely dry conditions and a lot of customer abuse. The
only 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 very
fine-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 reintroducing
these plants — they are tough and many are cold-hardy. For Southern
growers, these should be considered a spring crop, as rains and high night
temperatures are usually pretty tough on sedums.

Sedums will be the focus of trialing in Florida next year to
see if we can find some heat and humidity tolerance in the group. Also, check
out the living succulent wreathes made by a variety of suppliers, as an example
of 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 weakened
growth 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 more
easily.

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

Production Temperatures. style='font-weight:normal;font-style:normal'> Range from 55-85º F. Faster
but 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 a
new 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 pinch
required.

Flowering. Spring flowering. Flowers are a bonus but not always
spectacular.

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

Thunbergia alata

Thunbergia alata, the Black Eyed Suzie Vine, is making a
comeback. You can still buy seed Á for this old-fashioned annual, but
the vegetative forms have superior quality, with larger flowers and reliable
colors. This plant fell out of favor over 10 years ago and is now back in such
high demand that almost everyone ran out of stock before the season got
started. 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 with
twining stems that needs support immediately after planting. Thunbergia are
available from Horticultural Marketing Associates and Ball FloraPlant, as well
as many seed companies throughout the United States.

Production guidelines for Thunbergia alata:

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

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

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

Production Temperatures. style='font-weight:normal;font-style:normal'> Grows well from 65-80º F.
Faster but more elongated growth at high temps with increased chance of spider
mites.

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 pinch
required. You can pinch all you want, but it will simply keep growing!

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

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

Note: If you like Thunbergia, look for Thunbergia
battescombeii, 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 very
long-lasting, brightly colored blooms in tones of orange, red and yellow.
Larger cultivars make excellent specialty cuts or landscape plants in cool, dry
climates. Bodger Botanicals has two types: the Kanga series, which is a bit
larger 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 are
high-dollar, show-stopper flowering plants that can help establish a market
niche.

Production guidelines for Anigozanthus:

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

Watering. Allow plants to dry slightly between waterings. If light
levels or temperatures are low, this becomes even more important. Avoid
afternoon watering. When plants begin to actively grow and set flowers more
water will be needed.

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

Production Temperatures. style='font-weight:normal;font-style:normal'> Day temperatures of 65-75º F
and night 60-65º F.

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

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

Crop timing. From liner, 1-gallon takes 12-16 weeks, 2-gallon takes an
additional 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 display
was a plant that never gets enough press. A variegated form of Fuchsia
‘Gartenmeister Bonstadt’, it is renowned for its heat tolerance and
has definite possibilities for U.S. production. Green leaves, margined in cream
and wine tones, with vivid red-orange flowers make for an eye-catching
combination. Because this is a mostly upright form, it makes a great component
plant for shady containers. Definitely one for the cooler-climate people to
make the most of, and hopefully we will see some performance in the South.

Production guidelines for Firecracker Fuchsia: This plant
can be grown under the same conditions as any other fuchsia with excellent
results.

Revenge of the Monkey Flower

Monkey flowers, Mimulus hybrids, were always a bit finicky
when I was growing up in California but worth the trouble because of their
huge, colorful flowers. They look like an Angelonia on steroids, with blooms up
to three inches. Sakata’s line of Mystic annual Mimulus are very
strong-flowering plants with large flowers. They are great in baskets and
unusual enough to stop customers. This is an exceptional group for nurseries in
cooler climates. Colors include: yellow, white, bicolor, red, orange and rose
shades.

The new Jelly Bean series from The Flower Fields appears to
be derived from a native Mimulus species that grew on the coastal cliffs in
Central and Southern California. In general, these plants have a much different
habit than the annual types, more mounding with spiked flower clusters and an
overall larger size. There is still a bit of cultural work to be done on the
Jelly Bean series, but with good drainage and some patience, these will be
excellent 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 to
leaf drop and overall loss of vigor.

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

Production Temperatures. style='font-weight:normal;font-style:normal'> Maintain 55-75º F days with
cooler nights.

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

Propagation.  Seed or
cuttings. Seed is usually pelleted, 
as it is very fine.

Crop timing. Scheduling Mystic from plugs is similar to most
fast-cropping bedding plants. Jelly Bean is a bit more uncertain; 1-gallon
could 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.

About The Author

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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