Fall Crops: Making A Brighter Season By Catherine Evans

Fall is the time when the weather turns cooler, the leavesstart to fall from the trees and all of the summer flowers begin to die. Theregoes the color until next year. Right? Wrong. In the past decade, fall hasbecome a time when growers have been adding new plants and a lot of color witha fall feeling.

Growers are producing pansies, snapdragons, perennials,cyclamen, dianthus and more — not only in the spring, but in the fall as well.In the past, selection was a very small part of the fall crop; however, as timegoes by, trends are changing and people are becoming more interested in colorand variety and focusing less on tradition.


Perennials are typically known as a spring crop because manyneed the fall and winter for vernalization to induce flowering. However, anumber of growers have decided that perennials can work in the fall as well asthe spring. “We sell perennials year-round in jumbo packs for consumers toplant in their garden for the following spring — delphiniums, campanulas. . .we have about 20 varieties of campanulas and 10 different digitalis. We reallyhave a wide selection and a different game than most,” said Dianna Davisof Do Rights Plant Growers, Santa Paula, Calif. Due to the climate inCalifornia, it is easier to grow perennials year-round; however the differentclimates throughout the country do not allow for year-round perennials. So havingsome perennial varieties in the fall lets people know that they are not just awarm-weather plant — they can work elsewhere as well.

Rick Brown, Riverview Flower Farm, Riverview, Fla., has aprogram called Florida Friendly Plant that includes a number of perennials,”We have tropical perennials that we have been doing for a long time, andthere is quite a demand, even through the winter, because we have a lot offrost-free zones down here.” According to Brown, many stores in Floridathat haven’t seen the plants in the program are looking forward to getting thefall-blooming natives and tropical perennials.

Welby Gardens in Welby, Colo., uses a fair amount ofperennials in its fall crop assortment. Usually, the plants are late-spring andsummer bloomers that are carried over to the next season. While ClackamasGreenhouses Inc. in Aurora, Ore., offers fall-blooming perennials, this is alsomostly carry over from late-blooming spring/summer material.

Springing into Fall

With the cooler weather, growers have always assumed thatcertain plants could not be produced; however, they are now finding out thatthis may not be the case.

One trend popping up around the country is the increase ofsnapdragons and dianthus. The popularity of dianthus has been rising, and somebreeding companies are following that wave. Selecta First Class has some fallcolors in its Super Trouper series, as does Twyford in its Garden Spice series.

Bob Barnitz from Bob’s Market & Greenhouses, Mason, W.V.,has noticed a large increase of snapdragons and dianthus in Southern states forthe fall. “We grow snapdragons and dianthus in the fall to satisfycustomers in South Carolina and Georgia,” said Barnitz. And OliverWashington from Shore Acres Plant Farm, Theodore, Ala., says that one of hisbest fall sellers is snapdragons.

Snapdragons are available in a variety of fall colors frommost seed companies. Some favorites are the ‘Crown Terracotta Mix’ from S&GFlowers and ‘Liberty Classic Bronze’ and Yellow from Goldsmith Seeds.

Another typical spring cropbeing talked about in the fall is bulb crops. “We do awhole makeup of different bulbs — anemone, crocus, freesia, hyacinth, iris,narcissus, scylla and tulips,” said Richard Wilson of Colorama WholesaleNursery, Azusa, Calif. “And if any of these bulbs require chilling, likethe tulips, we put them in a big cooling facility so we can cool inside. We’rebasically guaranteeing to the consumer that we’re doing all the work for them,and if they plant they’ll get a bloom.”

Wilson explains that you can sprout a tulip with noproblems, but if you don’t give it the proper cold treatment, the blooms willnot come up. The demand for fall bulbs has become so large that a number ofgrowers are looking to join the trend. The difference between fall bulbs andthis program is that they are being grown earlier, unlike other bulbs that aregrown for the fall. Wilson’s bulb crop is grown in different containersincluding a 4-inch and 1-gal. program that includes a 12-inch terracottaplastic combination pot with specific crops such as a tulip a with a companioncolor cover crop.


Mixed containers for the spring market have been growing inpopularity for the past few years, and it seems that popularity has overflowedinto the fall. Do Rights produces a lot of penstemon and rubrum with blackmillet in combination planters for the fall look. They, along with othergrowers, sell the Fall Magic program from Proven Winners and use it in theircombinations. There are a number of recommended combinations in the programthat growers find easy to work with.

Larry Boven from Boven’s Quality Plants, Kalamazoo, Mich.,produces 10-inch patio planters with argyranthemum, rudebeckia and zinnias;10-inch combo planters with a Fall Magic combination; 12-inch oval planterswith rudebeckia and zinnias; and a 10-inch combo of Jack Frost color bowls.

“Over the past five years, we began to do ovals andbowls, and first it was just with pansies, violas and straight colors,”explains Boven. “Then we started doing combinations in bowls, ovals andplanters. I would say that my fall program has transitioned over the last fiveyears from flats of pansies to probably less than 20 percent of the products wegrow for the fall being flats and 80 percent in some other type of a container,all the way from a 6-inch up to a 12-inch patio planter.” For Boven’s, thecombinations arethe most indemand, they grow to order, and at the end of the season, Boven says the demandis so high, they seldom have enough.


Although some people think cyclamen is the replacement forpoinsettias, it seems that it may become a hot item in the fall as well. DickBostdorff from Bostdorff Greenhouse Acres Ltd., in Bowling Green, Ohio, sellssome cyclamen in the fall because, according to him, “That little nicheseems to be growing fairly nicely.” Though it may sound strange, moregrowers are seeing cyclamen slowly moving from winter to fall without a hitch.Cyclamen are typically red or pink, but Morel, a cyclamen breeder from France,has a number of varieties in pastel pinks, purples and deep maroons, as doesGoldsmith Seed.

“Cyclamen can take down to 20° F, but any colderthan that, and they sometimes need to be covered, but it’s not usually morethan one or two nights in the winter. So we are looking at the areas aroundU.S. Highways 10 and 20 and down into places like Dallas, where it is moremarginal but can survive the winter with some protection,” says Gerace.

Welby Gardens has a year-round program on cyclamen that dowell in the fall every year. According to Gerace, “We are constantlylooking for new items that we can flower in the fall. Normally, traditionalitems like it cool and have enough durability to flower in the short days andcan take frost. It’s a pretty narrow regiment.” And they found that incyclamen. “We have a great climate; it cools off about mid-August, andeven in the summer, we are able to run houses quite cool.” Gerace thinksgrowing cyclamen is an expensive start, but if the skill can be mastered, youhave certain market advantages without making it a commodity.


Pansies have been around for a long time, but according togrowers, they are the hottest things out there. Every year, growers try to findways to add a little more variety to the mix of pansies that the customer willbuy. The trend has been typical fall colors of yellow, orange and purple, aswell as the new black colors. Growers produce fewer pastels in the fall becauseit is a different time of year; with Halloween and Thanksgiving, people want todecorate for the season.

According to Joe Wojciechowski from Wojo Greenhouse,Ortonville, Mich., “Orange sells better in the fall; we are selling moreof the ‘Trick or Treat Mixture’ (PanAmerican Seed) and Halloween varieties inOctober than we used to.” Growers are producing a number of fall mixes ofpansies that include varieties such as a Majestic Giants yellow and purple mix(Sakata), the ‘Delta Monet Mix’ (S&G Flowers), ‘Crown Mixed’ (Sakata) andthe ‘Atlas Jack-O-Lantern Mix’ (Bodger Seed).

“Pansies are probably the number-one item for fall. Westart selling fairly early in our climate because we cool off about mid-Augustso that market progresses,” says Gerace. A number of growers have saidthat their main and most profitable fall crop is pansies, and many of them arehoping the trend will be around for a while.

Fall crops are more than just plants that can do well in thecooler temperatures; they are about color and variety, and that is what peoplewill be looking for this fall. Spring is not the only time of year to seecolor. In the past, fall had just been yellow and orange mums, but recentadditions have reinvented the fall market with a blend of old and new to makefall a bright season.

Catherine Evans

Catherine Evans is associate editor of GPN. She can be reached by phone at (847) 391-1050 or by E-mail at [email protected]

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