Sorting through the new introductions from Pack Trials and deciding which cultivars to add to next spring’s production schedule is never an easy task. You want to use cultivars that have appeal at retail and provide good garden performance for the consumer. However, the first requirement is often that new introductions be easy to grow and fit your production scheme.
The University of Florida trial allows one of the earliest evaluations of the new introductions. Plugs and liners are planted in 80-mm Ellepots in mid-February and are transplanted into ground beds the end of March. Evaluations are conducted every two weeks from April through July.
From the 284 new introductions we evaluated this year, these are the top choices that have the ability to be grown in production systems with minimum inputs and/or production space and still perform well in the garden.
Geranium ‘Calliope Dark Red’
‘Calliope Dark Red’, an interspecific hybrid from Syngenta Flowers, is important because of its striking, dark velvety-red flowers. This hybrid closely resembles zonal geraniums in flower size and garden performance. Plants have a wider growth habit than most zonals and did not stretch during production. It has great potential in 5-inch, gallon and hanging basket programs.
Ipomoea ‘Sidekick Lime’
Ipomoea is a beautiful component plant in combination planters but has been a grower’s headache because of its vigorous growth and extreme vining. ‘Sidekick Lime’ from Syngenta Flowers has a more compact habit with shorter internodes, and these improvements are tremendous! Plants have a mounded habit and can be grown on tight spacing during the early stages of production, but they will need some space or growth control later in the crop. ‘Sidekick Lime’ can be produced quickly in smaller containers and will also be an excellent addition to gallon, hanging basket and combination programs.
Juncus ‘Blue Dart’
‘Blue Dart’ is the newest and smallest addition to the juncus collection from Ball Horticultural Company. It has blue-green foliage and an upright habit that reaches 12-18 inches tall. ‘Blue Dart’ works well as an accent plant to provide texture to small landscape areas or combination planters. In production, plugs require a slightly longer crop time in order to develop a good root system for transplanting, but they quickly catch up once in their final container. Plants work best in 4- to 5-inch containers.
Lobelia ‘Magadi Ocean Blue’
Ocean Blue from Selecta First Class is a new introduction to the Magadi series. Plants have medium-blue flowers with a small white eye and an excellent semi-upright, mounded habit that won’t grow into each other in tight spacing. A compelling attribute of this cultivar is its ability to flower much earlier than others in the series. It is not as heat tolerant as ‘Magadi Blue’ but is still an excellent performer under moderate to warm conditions. This lobelia would work well as a component plant in mixed containers or hanging baskets as well as in 4-inch to gallon programs.
Ornamental Pepper ‘Sangria’
‘Sangria’ is one of three new ornamental peppers entered by Ball Horticultural Company. It has green foliage and an upright habit that becomes semi-trailing over time, a desirable trait for hanging baskets that require longer production time. Plants were extremely easy to grow and began developing peppers only four weeks after transplant from a plug. Fruit starts out light green and transitions to purple and red, which creates an attractive color display. As an added bonus, the peppers are mild and “child-friendly.” Plants can be produced in pot sizes ranging from 4 inches up to hanging baskets.
Osteospermum ‘Asti Purple’
Purple is the newest color addition to the Asti series from Goldsmith Seeds. The series is extremely uniform and quick to grow in production; nice, compact plants can be produced, even when pot-tight. Care must be taken early to ensure that plugs are sufficiently rooted and have a strong hypocotyl to prevent plants from becoming top-heavy and leaning over. In the garden, plants have provided an excellent and extended display of color. The Asti series is excellent for production in smaller containers and can work in a gallon container if provided with a slightly longer production time.
Petunia ‘Potunia Lobster’
Lobster is the newest color addition to the Potunia series from Dümmen USA. Flowers are salmon-colored with darker veining and actually resemble a cooked lobster! This cultivar still has all the characteristics growers and landscapers have come to appreciate in this series. Little or no growth regulator will be needed in most situations. Plants do not grow into adjacent containers during production yet have enough vigor to nicely fill in hanging baskets, window boxes and landscape plantings. ‘Potunia Lobster’ also works well as a component of mixed containers.
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’
Silverberry is new to the Supertunia Vista series from Proven Winners and has silver to light-pink flowers and darker veining. Silverberry has a mounded growth habit similar to Bubblegum and not the flatter habit of Fuchsia. Along with Bubblegum, Silverberry is one of the best petunias in the garden. The more rounded habit makes this cultivar easier in production than most other moderately vigorous petunias. Silverberry will fit nicely into a gallon or hanging basket program. It also creates a stunning color combination when mixed with the Supertunia Vista colors Bubblegum and Fuchsia.
‘Joey’ from Benary Seeds has received considerable attention and is important because of its novel appearance. Plants have soft but spiky-looking inflorescences that are pink with magenta tips. ‘Joey’ thrived in our warm, dry spring season, and among consumers visiting our trials, it was rated the most interesting variety from all 850 entries. In production, this is another plant that requires a strong hypocotyl and well-developed root system at transplant for optimum performance. Plants look sparse as the primary leaves and inflorescence develop, but they fill in nicely. It flowers early with an inflorescence at each leaf axel. ‘Joey’ will work well in 4- to 5-inch pots and in combinations.
Salvia Fizz Series
Fizz is a new salvia series from American Takii and is available in four colors: Cream, Grape, Raspberry and Strawberry (formerly Bloody Mary). This series is early flowering and had a good display of color only four weeks after planting. Once in the garden, plants were never deadheaded and continued to produce an excellent show of color for an additional eight to 10 weeks. Plants are compact in habit and coordinate well with one other, although ‘Fizz Strawberry’ is slightly more vigorous. This series has great potential for both growers and landscapers and can be produced easily in 4- or 5-inch containers.