At the 2019 California Spring Trials, Greenhouse Management saw everything from a rainbow of petunias and calibrachoas at numerous stops to unique fall and winter crop alternatives to nearly 6-foot-tall salvias.
Breeders and distributors offered new and trendy ideas as well as their takes on existing trends. In begonias, large sizes for the landscape and trailing habits for pots and baskets are gaining steam. In perennials, silvery foliage appears to be currying favor with consumers.
Below, we have compiled a photo gallery of some of the standout plants in several categories.
Benary introduced four new colors in its Funky series of trailing, basket-type, heat-tolerant begonia hybrids that perform well in mixed containers and grow in partial to full sun. Funky has high germination rates and is easy to ship. The new colors for 2020 are Light Pink, Orange, Scarlet and White. The Tophat interspecific begonia series from Syngenta Flowers finishes one week earlier than others in its class and is bred to finish in 306 packs up to large patio containers. New for 2020 is Bicolor which, like others in the series, features large blooms that sit atop of the foliage. With a mix of foliage and flower colors, Sakata Seed America’s Viking and Viking XL series of hybrid begonia thrive in the landscape or containers. Viking is available in eight colors and Viking XL is available in four colors, including the All-America Selections-winning Red on Chocolate.
Wave Petunias from PanAmerican Seed will celebrate 25 years in 2020. Classic Wave Purple — an All-America Selections winner — was the first color to be introduced in the well-known series. To mark the anniversary, PanAmerican will be producing point-of-purchase materials for retailers. Easy Wave Lavender Sky Blue is new for 2020 and, just like Classic Wave Purple, it is low-growing and wide-spreading. Danziger showcased several petunias including a new color to its Amore series. Amore King of Hearts (pictured) is compact and early to flower. It works best in combos, quarts and baskets. Danziger also featured new pots for the Amore line and ideas for Mother’s Day marketing. New to the Capella petunia series are Baby Pink, Ruby Red and Neon Pink. Lisa Heredia, marketing and key account manager at Danziger, says Capella petunias require little to no PGRs and are great for pot-tight production. New Cascadias Purple Ice petunia features a semi-trailing habit with strong, long-lasting flowers.
American Pie ‘Cherry Pie’ dianthus from Pinks by Whetman will follow in the footsteps of the top-selling ‘Georgia Peach Pie’ for the 2020 season. Robert Bett of PlantHaven says he’s quite impressed with its foliage color and prolific bud set. As a bonus, the cherry-red flowers on strong stems work great as a cut flower for the consumer.Echibeckia Summerina Blazing Fire was one of the star plants at Pacific Plug & Liner, planted in containers near the entrance of their Spring Trials display with its own vignette. Echibeckia is fast-growing, good for shoulder season sales, can be grown in multiple pot sizes and is heat tolerant. One 72-cell liner can easily fill larger pots such as 1.5 gallons and deco pots.
Green Fuse Botanicals introduced a new Begonia Rex series for 2020 called Bewitched in three colors: White, Wintergreen and Red Black. Steve Jones, president, emphasized that the plants can be used indoors or out, noting the robust popularity of houseplants. As part of its First Look pre-introduction program, the company also provided a sneak peek for what 2021 will have in store — three more colors in the Bewitched series: Cherry, Pink and Rose. A greenhouse crew may ask, “Which way is up?” when planting caladiums. Classic Caladiums, which are now available through a new partnership with Proven Winners, helped solve this dilemma by painting the eyes of the tubers so there’s no question that the painted side faces up. New to the Proven Winners line is the Heart to Heart Series including ‘Caribbean Coral’, ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘Lemon Blush’. J Berry Nursery’s Crown Jewel Begonias currently offer four selections in the series: Positively Peridot (pictured), Enduring Onyx, Tenacious Topaz and Joyful Jasper. Marketing and Brand Manager Tamara Risken says the nursery is working on oranges and reds to add to the collection. Thick leaves help the Crown Jewel Begonias withstand higher temperatures and the foliage color gets darker with cooler temperatures.
Heuchera LITTLE CUTIES ‘Shimmer’ from Terra Nova Nurseries is constantly blooming and has multiple crowns. This coral bells, hardy to USDA Zones 4-9, is able to fill pots quickly, but won’t overpower in a mix, says Sales Manager Larry Finley. The pink, fragrant flowers of ‘Pink Diamonds’ Dicentra from Walters Gardens will flower all season long. This bleeding heart attracts bees and hummingbirds, and is deer-resistant. Growing to 12 to 16 inches high with a 16- to 18-inch spread, it is easy to produce in a container and to get to flower.Skyscraper Senecio Senecio ficoides ‘Mount Everest’ from Sunset Western Garden Collection can add a dramatic, vertical element to mixed succulent containers. Skyscraper is an upright grower, reaching upwards of 5 feet tall. In colder climates, Skyscraper can be grown indoors as a houseplant. It will be available for retailers this year.
For 2020, Dümmen Orange is introducing Fleur de Rock, a new collection of alpine garden plants consisting of an iberis, two delosperma, an aubretia and a saxifraga. Consumers want crops that are easy to plant in the garden with low-water and low-maintenance requirements — and this collection fits the bill.Preciosa Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) from Takii Seed is a new series that is early flowering. It produces large, double, dahlia-like blooms and is being launched in eight colors, including a mix. Colors include Light Yellow, Pink, Rose, Scarlet and Tropical Blend (pictured here). Plants grow to 10-12 inches tall with a 4-inch bloom. Preciosa also has heavier branching, uniformity in production and doesn’t need a pinch. Benary has launched the Taka Tuka Bidens ferulifolia series with four new colors: Red Glow, Red Yellow Center, Orange Yellow Center and White Yellow Center. The breeder pulled the series name from the tales of Pippi Longstocking.
Making your irrigation system more efficient can save energy, labor and water. The savings will help to pay for the improvements. The following are a few areas that should be considered.
Select the best system for the crop. Overhead sprinkler systems work well on crops that are grown on the floor such as annuals and perennials in flats. They waste a lot of water when used on container crops as up to 75% of the water never gets to the root zone. For these crops, drip, trickle flood and trough systems are a better choice. These save 50% or water and require smaller piping and lower pump pressure.
Design the system for uniformity of application to reduce the total water needed. Over-irrigating some plants so that the driest plants have adequate water is wasteful of both water and energy.
Size the system for the water supply capacity. Compare the peak use against the supply. Use zoning and an irrigation controller to spread the supply over a longer time period. An alternate is to install an intermediate storage tank that will make up the difference.
Size the pipes to reduce friction loss. Water flow is affected by pressure, length and number of fittings. The generally recommended flow rates for 100’ of plastic pipe are shown in Table 1. For longer runs, the flow rate decreases. Most systems have a pressure tank that provides water at between 30 to 50, or 40 to 60, pounds per square inch (psi). Lower pressure reduces flow and higher pressure increases energy use and may damage the plants. Valves and fittings should generally be the same size as the pipe.
Manage the system. Track water use by evapotranspiration rate. There are many sensors that have been developed for measuring the moisture content of the soil. Soil moisture tension is used in conjunction with evapotranspiration estimates to determine how strongly water is held in the soil.
A common system now available to manage irrigation is vapor pressure deficit (VPD). It is a measure of the difference in the humidity inside the leaf and the humidity of the greenhouse air. The computer calculates the amount of moisture lost by the plants and activates the irrigation system to make up this difference.
A zone controller can save considerable water and time as compared to manual control. This frees up the manager for other tasks.
Maintenance can reduce energy use and prevent problems. Select pumps with premium efficiency motors. This can save up to 10% in electricity use. Check voltage at the pump as low voltage will overheat wiring and add to the electricity use. Variable speed drive pump motors have been used but are best for systems with multi zones of different sizes.
Install filters with the correct mesh for the nozzles and check frequently to see if they are clean. Self-cleaning filters can save time and energy. Multiple filters with different mesh may be needed if the water has many particulates.
Check the system frequently for plugged nozzles or drippers. These should be replaced to get even flow to all the plants. Leaks in the pipes also increase water use and should be repaired. A leak of 60 drops per minute will waste 113 gallons per month.
An efficient irrigation system will save water and labor. If properly designed and maintained, it can meet the plant needs without waste.
John is an agricultural engineer, an emeritus extension professor at the University of Connecticut and a regular contributor to Greenhouse Management. He is an author, consultant and certified technical service provider doing greenhouse energy audits for USDA grant programs in New England. firstname.lastname@example.org
Departments - Production Pointers
Calcium deficiencies can cause plant health issues, but growers can take practical steps to prevent any issues.
Calcium (elemental symbol Ca) is, along with magnesium (Mg) and sulfur (S), one of three essential secondary macronutrients. While all 12 essential macro- and micronutrients are required for a plant to successfully complete its life cycle, calcium and its deficiency symptoms reduce the marketability of horticultural products. In poinsettia, a calcium deficiency results in necrotic bract margins, referred to as bract edge burn. In lettuce, the margins of leaves, especially those at the center of a lettuce head, become necrotic; this is referred to as tip burn. Additionally, blossom end rot manifests when tomato and pepper fruits deficient in calcium develop necrotic spots at the bottom of fruits where the whorl of petals or corolla once was. While a simple remedy to any calcium deficiency may be to simply provide additional calcium, this may not always prove to be the remedy you need for solving calcium deficiencies.
Calcium deficiency symptoms may develop if insufficient calcium is provided to plants through fertilizers. However, there are a number of other factors that may result in calcium deficiencies. First, calcium may be present in the substrate for container-grown plants or in the nutrient solution provided to hydroponic plants, yet it may not be taken up by plants. Calcium is not taken up rapidly by plants through active uptake, where energy is expended to absorb the nutrient. Rather, calcium is primarily taken up through bulk flow, when water is being taken up, meaning calcium uptake is very closely linked with transpiration. When plants are actively transpiring, calcium uptake is promoted. Alternatively, when transpiration is diminished or inhibited, calcium uptake declines. That is why, even when there is sufficient calcium available for plants for uptake, calcium deficiencies can appear if environmental conditions are not promoting calcium uptake. For example, calcium deficiencies can occur when light intensity is low or relative humidity is high. Altering the greenhouse environment by providing additional light with supplemental lighting, reducing humidity by increasing venting and dehumidification, or promoting additional airflow can promote transpiration — thereby enhancing calcium uptake and tissue concentrations.
In addition to promoting transpiration and, thereby, calcium uptake, calcium also interacts with other nutrients that may inhibit its uptake. For example, magnesium can compete with calcium for uptake. Magnesium is a divalent cation like calcium, meaning they have a positive charge of “+2” (i.e Mg2+ and Ca2+). As a result of their similar chemical structure, these two elements have an antagonistic relationship, whereby an abundance of one may inhibit the uptake of another. If calcium levels are too high, magnesium uptake can be suppressed; similarly, excessive magnesium can inhibit calcium uptake. When evaluating plant nutrition programs, you want to maintain approximately three to five parts per million (ppm) calcium for every ppm of magnesium. But this is not just a matter of evaluating fertilizers alone.
In addition to fertilizers, you’ll also want to look at things like your substrate and water sources. When substrates are amended with limestone to increase the pH, as is commonly the case for sphagnum moss-based substrates, there will be additional magnesium as a result of the dolomite [CaMg(CO3)2] content in the limestone. If possible, use calcitic limestone in lieu of dolomitic limestone, which lacks magnesium. Also, if your water source is high in alkalinity, you’ll also want to measure the hardness, or the calcium and magnesium concentration. If you have high alkalinity, you may need to look at adding additional calcium to get closer to the ideal Ca to Mg ratio.
Calcium deficiencies can result in symptoms that make both food and flower crops unmarketable. While calcium deficiencies may result from inadequate supplies of calcium to plants, the greenhouse environment and other nutrients may suppress calcium uptake. Evaluate the environmental conditions and cultural practices to try and identify what may be causing calcium deficiencies and what you can do to fix them.
Christopher is an assistant professor of horticulture in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. email@example.com
Plant science in practice
Departments - Meet the Grower: Emily Teng
Emily Teng balances her time as a nursery grower and PhD student to share her horticulture expertise.
As the grower at Pang’s Nursery in Kahalu’u, Kaneohe, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, Emily Teng gets to work outdoors, surrounded by the Hawaiian tropics with breathtaking views of the Ko’olau Mountains.
But lately, Teng has been spending a lot of time indoors as she completes her PhD in ornamental horticulture. She works part-time at Pang’s one day a week so she can focus on her research at the University of Hawaii (UH) in Manoa. Balancing school and work isn’t easy, but Teng says learning is critical to her career.
“You need to stay curious as a grower,” says Teng, who started working in the horticulture industry in 2002. “Our field is always changing. There are always new products, new plants and new processes, and if you don’t keep up with all these things, you won’t know what’s happening.”
After she graduates next spring, Teng wants to do research and product development for a large plant breeder. Until then, she’s balancing her time between Pang’s Nursery and UH to share her horticulture expertise.
Teng started working at Pang’s Nursery in 2007, after she earned her master’s degree in ornamental horticulture from UH. She switched to part-time when she went back for her PhD in 2013.
“Working at the nursery keeps me in the loop and in tune with real life outside of school,” Teng says. “I don’t want to lose touch with growing.”
The family-owned wholesale nursery employs four other people dedicated to planting, packing and delivering plants, but Teng is the only grower on staff. One of her main responsibilities is pest and disease management — which can be a challenge, since the growing operation is completely outdoors, located on a mountainside with one covered area but no enclosed facilities. The property covers 4 acres, but the actual growing space is less than half that.
In this tropical location, Teng says, “insects are a constant battle.” Plus, the nursery is in a wet part of the island where flooding is common, so moisture also contributes to fungal and bacterial disease that can spread quickly. Teng relies on preventative spraying and scouting, but since she only works one day a week, the nursery owner picked up some of these duties. It’s critical that they communicate frequently to stay on the same page.
“We created an Evernote file that we share to keep track of everything so we can both update it,” Teng says. “I’ll take notes and pictures to record what I sprayed, when it flowered and how it turned out. So if I’m not there, she doesn’t have to remember what we did last year because it’s all in the file.”
As simple as it seems, Teng says the shared file is key to working remotely because she and the owner can share and access information anywhere.
Teng’s outdoor growing experience gives her an advantage in the lab at UH, where she’s researching how light and temperature affect poinsettia bract pigments.
“I’ll see younger students growing in the greenhouse and they’re having all these pest problems that they don’t know how to deal with. I’ll be like, ‘Oh, you just need to spray this,’” Teng says.
Over the past few years, Teng has gotten more involved in the horticulture department by spearheading student events like the annual fundraiser.
“The department has been doing a poinsettia sale every Christmas for years. It used to be that the undergraduates would just buy plants wholesale from a local nursery and then sell them,” Teng says. “Then in 2016, the graduate students got involved and decided we were going to grow our own. And because I have all this experience, I got to be in charge of that.”
Teng manages poinsettia production in UH’s student greenhouse. Breeders donate most of the cuttings and funds from the plant sale support student activities throughout the year.
“We’re plant science students. We should be growing our own plants, not buying them,” Teng says. “Because we’ve been growing them ourselves, the quality has improved and we’ve been able to charge a little more. We’ve actually been selling out much faster, so it’s been really successful.”
Additionally, Teng coordinates other student events and activities. Last February, she organized a plant sciences symposium about communicating scientific innovations. These events give her an opportunity to engage with younger horticulture students — especially shy students who thought plant science just meant working in a lab.
“When I was their age, I was like that too,” Teng says. “I was shy, quiet and reserved. I didn’t get out and talk to people. But in the past few years, I’ve been getting involved and meeting all these people, so I try to tell students that [networking] really does help. You meet people and make new friends and you always run into them later. That’s why it’s a fun industry to be in.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Ohio.
Departments - Three Questions
The Iowa State professor discusses his current research projects and how he hopes to help growers solve different problems in the greenhouse.
Greenhouse Management: How do you approach research and what type of results are you typically looking for?
Christopher Currey: I like to use what I call a shotgun experiment, like figure out the response of 12 different herbs to all these nutrients or a dozen herbs to temperature or two dozen floriculture crops to reduce phosphorus. It’s not the most highly detailed work, but it’s trying to get an impression of how modifying our crop culture or environment can change production, so that’s why I like to have these big swings at things. I’m not necessarily figuring out what phosphorus molecules are doing in this specific plant on this specific cellular level, but I want to figure out how plants respond to low phosphorus.
GM: One project you are currently working on is determining nutrient concentrations for hydroponics solutions for specialty leafy greens. Is this a research area that is still being fleshed out?
CC: There’s not been a lot of baseline data. If you go from no fertilizer to nuclear amounts of fertilizer and you draw a curve, it’ll go up until you hit the optimal and then it’d start to get too much fertilizer or too much of anything. It starts to go down. I usually like to try and find the optimal [amount], to find what maximizes growth. The other thing that you can do in modeling is you can find out the minimum amount of nutrients needed to get an acceptable quality product. Right now, we’ve been chasing down magnesium and calcium because we’re trying to figure out if these greens are heavy-seeding crops — meaning they don’t even need a lot of fertilizer or if we’re seeing certain better responses under higher concentrations just because of one or two nutrients.
GM: Another project you are working on is phosphorus restriction. Where did the idea for this research come from, and what are the benefits of phosphorus restriction for growers?
CC: It’s in in conjunction with Brian Whipker from North Carolina State. He started doing some phosphorus reduction work and he did a really nice job with one of his master’s students, Josh Henry. I really like doing PGR work and that includes non-chemical PGR. So when I saw Brian’s stuff, I was just a fan. But I’m very, very keen on phosphorus restriction for a couple of reasons. One, when it works, you can use a non-chemical growth regulator, which is, I think, always a desirable thing. And I’ve got nothing wrong with chemical PGRs, but I like having non-chemical options. The other thing is some experiments, when you apply a treatment and there is no difference between your different treatments, you get kind of bummed out, like, ‘Oh, nothing happened.’ But if you think about it, if you’re growing a plant with zero to 50 parts per million phosphorus and there’s no difference. That’s huge good news because why would we keep on feeding it 40, 50, 60 parts per million if you don’t get any additional growth or plants that are grown with five parts per million look the exact same because we’re reducing phosphorus use.