Taking on trends at CAST 2023 By Heather Machovina

New combinations, bright colors and better growth habits were found at many California Spring Trials stops this year.

CUT FLOWERS CONTINUE

The cut flowers trend has been ongoing since its first bump during the pandemic. Many breeders are looking at current and new varieties in their lineups to find more options for cut flower growers to add to their production. More traditional varieties are now being promoted as additions to cut flower programs, giving growers multiple sale options with one plant.

Specifically breeding for cut flower production (above), Syngenta Flowers currently has 13 dahlia varieties, two zinnias, an all-season sunflower and 20 just-added pot mums. All of these options were selected for performance, reliability and profitability for growers. Cut flower dahlias are provided as unrooted cuttings and transplanting liners to ensure easier planting and virus-free plants, while still growing quality flowers in the same amount of time as tubers. The bright-colored zinnias come in Rose and Yellow Flame with long stems and double flowers. The ‘Sunfinity Yellow Dark Center’ sunflower continuously reblooms for up to 12 weeks and has a vase life of seven to 20 days. The cut mums assortment increases fall offerings in cut flowers with a range of colors including Bronze, Mango, Purple, White, Orange and Butterscotch.

Pacific Plug & Liner debuted Sugar Shake, a new variety in the echibeckia Summerina Glow series, that is showing great potential for a cut flower program due to its long stems and longlasting blooms. The fully double flowers almost look like zinnias, have a peach color base, and in bright light will produce tones of light pink and cherry. Sugar Shake is a larger echibeckia that can grow up to 24 inches.

BloomStudios Cut Flowers, a PanAmerican Seed company, provides high-quality seed to professional cut flower growers. Two new colors are available from two dianthus series. ‘Amazon Lavender Magic’ blooms with white flowers that transition to lavender when grown in direct sunlight and has a stem length of up to 36 inches. Amazon can be produced year-round and is the best dianthus for warmer production seasons. ‘Sweet Cherry’ provides another shade of red to cut flowers, with long-lasting blooms. This series is programmable and is best for cooler production seasons.

Two new series of cut flowers are available from Sakata this year. The aster Azumi XL series produces extra-large flowers on stems that can reach an impressive 36 to 40 inches tall. Available as a coated seed, it comes in four colors: Blue, Red, Rose and White. The series was bred for better growth habit to more easily achieve the desired plant height and has fusarium tolerance. This new introduction is only available in North America.

The new lisianthus Solo series is a great option for growers and consumers alike. The strong petals hold up well during transport, it has a vase life of 21 days, and it’s the first pollen-free series in the world. The four colors of the series — Blue, Pink, Pure White and Violet — are great for spring to summer sales and have a stem length of 24 to 36 inches.

GROWER-FRIENDLY COMBOS

The new mixed container program from Benary, Mix It Up, makes combos easy for growers. Each mix has been trialed for up to three years to ensure plants grow well together and will maintain the attractive design for consumers. There are many choices for early, peak and late season mixes. Retail is easy with names such as Bee Happy! (angelonia, bidens and verbena, shown at right), Country Cottage (bidens, helichrysum and ptilotus) and Let’s Do Malibu (begonia, coleus and lysimachia).

Dümmen Orange’s Confetti Garden annual mixed combinations include plants rooted together in the same plug or combined as unrooted cuttings for even planting. Plants are shipped together in one liner and include varieties of calibrachoa, petunia and verbena. There is a design for every season for hanging baskets and containers (Confetti Garden Tik Tok Pink Lemonade is shown).

The company’s Garden Party multi-genus mixes offer a combination of annuals, perennials and potted plants that use plants from the Pollinator’s Paradise and Better Together collections for popular consumer trending designs. Each mix consists of four components that are rooted and shipped separately, then put together for the final product.

Selected for trending color combos and trialed for optimal growth performance, the Ball FloraPlant MixMasters combos have similar requirements, making production a breeze. New combos that consist of three varieties are: All That Glimmers with three double impatiens Glimmer colors (shown at left), Just My Luck with three lantana Shamrock varieties and Serendipity with three calibrachoa Cabaret colors.

SMALLER PLANTS, SOONER FRUITS

Dwarf varieties are becoming more popular with gardeners who have less space to grow and opt for patio containers. The Tiny Temptations series from Prudac Americas provides sweet and productive bush-type tomatoes that mature in 70 to 85 days. With three fruit colors to choose from — Red, Yellow and Orange — these tiny tomatoes have a Brix of 10 to 12% and grow well on the porch from summer to fall. ‘Tiny Temptations Orange’ won a Fleuroselect Gold Medal award for its productivity and flavor.

Making home gardening easier for consumers, Sakata Home Grown is offering a bell pepper that is widely adapted, early to fruit and easy to grow. Pepper ‘Arica’ has high yield potential with a heavy first flush of peppers, then the ability to continue setting fruit after. It’s a compact plant with good vigor, and resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and phytophthora. ‘Arica’ matures in 70 to 75 days and can be harvested for green and red peppers.

New to the Kitchen Mini series from PanAmerican Seed, Quick Snack mini potted cucumber is bred to grow indoors or on a balcony. It will set fruit without a pollinator and is ready to pick when cucumbers are 2 to 2.5 inches long. Quick Snack will reach a height of 20 to 24 inches and hits maturity at 38 to 45 days from direct seed.

HELLO HOUSEPLANTS

The new succulents program at Syngenta Flowers is the perfect fit for its sustainability efforts because these plants thrive in heat and drought conditions. The program offers six succulent collections and four stand-alone choices. A succulent-covered roof gazebo and large frame filled with plants were great choices in highlighting the multitude of applications for consumers.

The FanciFillers program at Westhoff is geared toward reinventing the idea of plants that make great fillers in mixed combinations — the plant that ties it all together. Lotty Dotty is a series of vegetative hypoestes chosen for its high contrasting colors and late flowering. More vigorous than the original seed-types, they grow in an upright habit, eventually forming a mounding plant up to 12 inches in height. Pink, Red, Rose and White are available for the 2023-24 season; a great prospect for spring combos and part-shade containers during the summer months.

The recently launched program Floresta by Danziger is providing more than 150 varieties of houseplants to growers with consistent availability and tested, clean stock. All plants are produced indoors in a clean environment, using high-quality source material to ensure uniform and quality genetics are being supplied.

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