Spectacular Synergy By Vaughn Fletcher

Check out these designer plant combinations from the southern plant trials.

Since their inception, multispecies plant recipes have dominated basket programs throughout the country. Every major breeder has introduced combinations using their genetics. In the beginning, these programs consisted of vegetative varieties, but in the past few years more seed variety recipes have entered the market. A good example of this is the Plug & Play program from PanAmerican Seed. We now have single- and multi-genus combinations, and breeding companies trial these recipes extensively before a formal roll out. It is important to note that what is successful in one part of the country may not work for your area. That is the beauty of these programs — adaptability based on specific varieties.

What makes a successful designer mix? Many attributes are required to achieve a harmonious recipe that is attractive at retail and performs for the consumer. Some of the attributes include balance, floriferousness, compatibility, proportion and timing. When these requirements are achieved you have a blending of plants into a unit creating synergy — the sum is greater than its parts.

This article is based on combinations I have selected from the hanging basket trial at Costa Farms, Young’s Plant Farm and Metrolina Greenhouses. I evaluated Costa in early May, and Young’s and Metrolina during the first week of June.

I have selected these recipes based on the attributes outlined earlier.

Confetti Garden Nani Hilo

Dümmen Orange

Dümmen Orange introduced this genetically compact calibrachoa series last year. It consists of five basic colors and Red Cartwheel. This recipe is comprised of Nani Blue, White and Dark Red. It demonstrated excellent timing, heat tolerance, floriferousness and a controlled growth habit. One of the most well balanced in the trial, this will have outstanding uniformity, a patriotic theme, and ease of shipping based on compactness.

Trixi Batting Eyes


The calibrachoa Neo series consists of 19 varieties. Orange + Red Eye, Coral + Red Eye and Yellow + Red Vein comprise this new recipe for 2018. These red eye varieties were in 2016 summer trials and in spring 2017 production programs; they were eye catchers with superb uniformity and a semi-trailing habit. These warm colors were blended into an extremely floriferous, balanced and uniform habit.

Above and Beyond

Proven Winners

This streamliner multi-liner is not new, but it has been one of the most outstanding performers in trials and production programs for many years. The combination of Petunia Vista Fuchsia, Bubblegum and Silverberry provides a vigorous, well timed and floriferous combination with unsurpassed summer performance. This combination has been very successful in landscape and residential sites throughout the country for many seasons, continues to perform under extreme summer conditions and is unquestionably a Proven Winner.

Plug & Play Lemon Dream

PanAmerican Seed

PanAmerican and Kieft Seed offer an assortment of seed combinations including annuals, grasses, vegetables, herbs and perennials. They added 10 new Plug & Play mixes for 2018 and Lemon Dream was one of the top performers at the Costa trial. It consists of calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Yellow’, petunia ‘Easy Wave Yellow’ and phlox ‘21st Century White’. This monochromatic mix was subtle yet outstanding for timing, compatibility, floriferousness and heat tolerance. The program consists of 24 different recipes, which gives a grower choice and flexibility.

Mixmaster Spring Showers

Ball FloraPlant

Ball FloraPlant introduced these mixes in 2011, and the MixMaster program now consists of 35 recipes with an extensive palette of proprietary genetics to create exciting and colorful combinations. The Spring Showers combination, comprised of calibrachoa Cabaret Lemon, Light Blue and Sky Blue was impressive at the Metrolina trial for its uniform habit, floriferousness and timing. The Cabaret series is recognized for vibrant solid colors in the assortment and has been expanded for 2018 with five bicolors, bringing the series to 19 colors. The series is used in many of the MixMasters for its uniformity, 11-hour day length requirement and timing.

Confetti Garden Volcano Kea

Dümmen Orange

While this combination is not new for 2018, it was one of the top- performing Confettis in the Metrolina trial. The recipe is comprised of calibrachoa Volcano Neon, Sunset and Pink. The timing was consistent, the habit was semi-trailing and the colors were distinct with the eye-catching floral pattern. The series consists of five stable day length neutral colors for early flowering. This calibrachoa series is not used in many of the Confetti mixes, but Volcano Kea is a standout and attracts serious attention at retail.

Summer Salsa Mix


This Sunpatiens combination of Compact Red, Hot Coral and Coral Pink had been in trials the past two years and was one of the top performers in the southern trials this year. The combination creates a lively mix with non-fading vibrant flowers producing a full canopy. This recipe is simple but striking, and will provide the consumer with a colorful basket in full sun or partial shade until frost.

Confetti Garden Cherries on Top

Dümmen Orange

This was one of the most attention-grabbing combinations in the trial with three vibrant components: petunia ‘Potunia Neon’, verbena ‘Empress Cherry Charme’ and calibrachoa ‘Bloomtastic Rose Quartz’. The color palette of neon, cherry and iridescent soft pink/rose created a high-impact basket. The calibrachoa added the visual weight with its extra large flowers and vigorous trailing habit. There was a limited launch of this series this spring, but the formal roll out is 2018. This Bloomtastic series, consisting of Rose Quartz and Serenity, was bred to be the most vigorous and largest flowering calibrachoa in the industry with application in containers, baskets and landscapes.

I saw both colors in landscape beds at the Costa trial in late spring and in basket production in the Midwest. I was impressed with the flower size and stunning bicolor patterns of both varieties, but specifically Rose Quartz. This variety is unique and should be an essential part of all 2018 programs.

Lollipop Flaming Hot Lemon Mix


Benary introduced the Lollipop impatiens series to the market three years ago with eight basic colors. Obviously, the color selection is limited but these core colors are vibrant and intense, and the series offers many attributes including compactness, uniformity, floriferousness and a non-stretching habit. I have observed the series in many trials and in spring production programs the past two seasons, in varied applications including landscape beds, quart and basket programs.

Benary entered 11 combinations in the Metrolina basket trial in shade and the growth habit was mounding, compact and uniform. The color canopy was excellent. Based on trial performance this series has wide application, and as new colors are introduced it will become a significant option.

Trixi Daisy Falls


This new trailing osteospermum series was introduced at California Spring Trials and was in the Young’s trial in June. The production and retail focus is spring sales, but I was impressed by its durability, vigor, heat tolerance, flowering and habit in the southern trial. The series is available in three colors — Pink, Purple and White Amethyst — and is available in Trixi mixes. The selling points include vigorous trailing habit,
long season performance, single variety and combination application. This will be a significant addition to early spring basket programs with long season potential in the northern regions.

Confetti Garden Duo Sunny Day

Dümmen Orange

Dümmen Orange introduced the Suntunia series to the market last year. It is available in nine colors including the new yellow for 2018. This is a petunia/calibrachoa cross with excellent heat tolerance and large flowers. It is vigorous, well matched and adaptable in baskets or containers. Dümmen Orange introduced two Suntunia Duos for 2018.

The Sunny Day basket is comprised of ‘Suntunia Pink Morn’ and ‘Suntunia Vanilla’. The flower vibrancy, floriferousness and habit were exceptional in the Metrolina trial. This series will be in summer trials throughout the country, and I look forward to visiting many of these trials and receiving reports on its performance.

Double Romance


This Suntory series is comprised of four colors: Salmon, Pink, White and Rose. Since its introduction in 2012 this compact, floriferous and uniform series has demonstrated superb garden performance in all regions. The Double Romance basket includes Pink, Rose and White. The plants require very little dead heading, and the series is adaptable in quarts, combinations and baskets. I have sold this series since the beginning and evaluated it in many settings including spring production, trials, retail and at the consumer level. Based on consistent performance this may be the best double petunia series in the industry.

Geranium ‘Marcada Dark Red’, Angelonia “Angelmist Trailing Dark Purple’ and Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’

Selecta/Ball FloraPlant

This is not a manufactured combination for 2018, but it is a recipe for success. This was in the Young’s trial, and it was compatible, colorful and performing. It is comprised of three genera: geranium ‘Marcada Dark Red’, angelonia ‘Angelmist Trailing Dark Purple’ and lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’. Angelmist is not new to the industry, but it is an exceptional series for hanging basket production with outstanding summer performance in full sun and high temperatures. The dark purple with white eye is stunning. Geranium Marcada, an interspecific series, is new for 2018 and comprised of three colors: Pink, Magenta and Dark Red. I saw this series on multiple occasions in summer trails and it was very impressive with a strong upright habit, flower canopy well above the foliage and extremely floriferous. This series will be trialed in many sites this summer, and I look forward to feedback from the industry on its performance.

This article was submitted in early July, and some of the combinations discussed in this article will be in summer trials throughout the country as well as many more 2018 recipe introductions. Based on my experience you must be selective and choose your mixes carefully based on your region.

Vaughn Fletcher

Vaughn Fletcher is president of Fletcher Consulting. He has been in the horticulture industry since 1971, working in many areas including landscaping, garden center and greenhouse production, greenhouse and nursery sales and sales management. He can be reached at [email protected].

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