Centauria ‘Imperialis The Bride’ from Sahin

California Spring Trials hot topics and trends of the 2024 event By Heather Machovina

Hot topics and trends from this year’s California Spring Trials

Our industry is always evolving, and keeping up with the latest trends helps keep business up and consumers happy. The California Spring Trials is my yearly refresh to see what breeders have been working on for new releases. While it’s important to breed varieties that will catch the eye of shoppers, there’s more to consider before the plants hit retail shelves in order for growers to have a successful launch to market.

SCENTS AND SENSES 

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Passionberry nemesia

Personally, it’s a big letdown when I take a sniff of a brilliantly colored bloom to discover it has little to offer in fragrance. I enjoy having a multisensory experience in my garden — sight, touch and smell. Breeders are continuing to develop options with strong floral scents that will also add colors and textures. Bonus — pollinators will be plentiful too!

 

Absolu de Morel

Centauria ‘Imperialis the Bride’ from Sahin (shown above) is my first choice for its versatility. It has an inviting vanilla fragrance and large, fluffy white flowers that reach up to three inches wide. This annual is an awesome cut flower and keeps well as a dried flower too. It’s grown from seed, has a bushy upright habit and can reach a height of 36 inches.

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La Diva lavender

You might smell nemesia Passionberry before you see it due to its strong floral smell. The Escential series from PlantHaven has a compact, rounded habit and great heat tolerance through the summer. It blooms from early spring through autumn with plum and yellow blooms.

 

Morel Cyclamen jumped into the scents category this year with the Absolu de Morel series; the first fragrant Victoria F1. The smell comes through best during midday, in natural light, at a temperature of 59º F to 77° F. Available in five colors, all with evenly marbled silver and dark green foliage, Absolu de Morel are summer and autumn flowering. Growers can expect uniformity and a grow time from seed of 28-30 weeks. 

A game-changer in angustifolia, Lavender ‘La Diva Eternal Elegance’ is an English type that has a profusion of aromatic blooms from very early spring, continuing nonstop throughout the summer months. It’s Dümmen Orange’s most compact variety. Eternal Elegance is first-year flowering without the need for vernalization as typical English lavender requires.

WATERWISE 

Salvia ‘Vibe Ignition Orange’

As climate change persists, we continue to adjust to what that means for our plant choices and gardens. Whether you call them waterwise, drought-tolerant or low-water requirement varieties, this category is increasing in popularity. 

Sun’s Up echibeckia

At the Santa Barbara Polo Club, PlantHaven showcased a great option for low-water landscapes, salvia ‘Vibe Ignition Orange.’ This salvia x jamensis offers flexible stems (great for shipping), orangepeach flowers that reflower throughout the season and a tight, compact-rounded form. At maturity, Ignition Orange will measure two feet high and wide. 

delosperma ‘Solstice Purple Bicolor’

Pacific Plug & Liner, also at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, highlighted the echibeckia Summerina Glow series with Sun’s Up. Being offered in 72- and 32-cell trays, it has the flowering period of rudbeckia and the bloom longevity of echinacea. Sun’s Up has a compact habit but is still vigorous. While it takes a bit longer to bloom than the original Summerina series, the flowers stay brightly colored during cooler temperatures. 

Joy Mocca Rose begonia

Dümmen Orange is continuing to expand its perennials category with the new delosperma hybrid ‘Solstice Purple Bicolor.’ It’s heat, drought and frost tolerant, with a habit optimal for 10-inch and 1-gallon containers and hanging baskets. Purple Bicolor stands out for its large flower size, and each of the blooms has a bright yellow center. Solstice delosperma are hardy in Zones 6 to 9. 

Celosia ‘Burning Embers’

A new waterwise begonia from Benary, ‘Nonstop Joy Mocca Rose’, is multipurpose for use in patio pots, hanging baskets, mixed containers and the landscape. Mocca Rose is a new color that blooms all summer long with extra-large double flowers. Growers can expect a well-branching plant grown from seed that’s easy to produce and ship. 

This Sakata ornamental is an AAS award winner. ‘Burning Embers’ is a heat and drought-tolerant celosia with large, bright red plumes and bronze foliage. It’s a great option for growers because it does well in container sizes of four inches up to 1-gallon, and it has a 9-11 week crop time. ‘Burning Embers’ offers strong branching with a full habit and long-lasting plumes that keep color longer into the season. Plants can reach up to 12 inches tall and 9 inches wide. 

Last, but definitely one of the most exciting experiences of the third day at California Spring Trials happened surrounding Darwin Perennials new agastache Summerlong series. Available in coral, lemon, lilac, magenta and peach, the bright flowers are a true pollinator attractor — a hummingbird couldn’t stay away regardless of the people. Summerlong is heat and drought tolerant. It’s earlier to bloom and longer lasting in full bloom for a larger sales window.

Summerlong agastache

ALL-IN-ONE FUN

‘Ray Shadow’

Creating combinations for ultimate consumer appeal can come with more work than you can or want to invest in the product. There was a lot of interest in new varieties this year that provide the look and visual interest of a mixed container, but it’s only one variety giving all the color so growers can save time and effort. 

‘Shake Raspberry’

This petunia from Danziger has great color changing capability with large flowers. The new blooms of ‘Ray Shadow’ open as a yellow hue and turn rosy with dark centers as they age. It’s early enough for any market, and has potential for fall programs with its coloring. ‘Ray Shadow’ has a tidy habit for small containers and baskets, and no pinching is required. 

All That Jazz coleus

Another petunia choice for that multi-variety look is ‘Shake Raspberry’ bred by Hem Genetics. It’s grown from seed and is genetically compact so no PGRs are needed. Every flower shows a different pattern with varying colors from yellow to dark raspberry making it look like a mixed container and not one plant. Flowering timing and growth habit are uniform across the Shake series. 

There’s so many fun coleus colors and shapes on the market. Kientzler’s new for 2025 variety, ‘TerraScape All That Jazz,’ is a UF Coleus Breeding Program release that will make small container production easier for growers. Pinching will encourage branching to keep it container and basket worthy at retail. All That Jazz brings multiple colors and shades in each leaf creating its own combination. 

PanAmerican Seed offers beautiful mixes of osteospermum, although ‘Akila Sunset Shades’ looks like a combo on its own. The flowers move through the shades of a sunset: yellows, oranges and reds. Supplied as seed, Sunset Shades has a 4-5 week plug crop time and finishes from transplant in 10-12 weeks for spring production and 7-9 weeks in the fall.