10 Perennials Driving Success Through Better Breeding

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Dan Heims

My mission at Terra Nova Nurseries is to cure the failures in plants with good breeding. The right cures make consumers successful and put smiles on the faces of growers and retailers. Here’s a look at 10 perennial genera that can help you bring the consumer
success and a smile to your face.

1 Agastache. These are now beginning to fill a market niche once dominated by salvia. Agastaches are heavily reblooming plants with fragrant foliage and new, rich flower colors that provide a foil to echinacea and other perennials. They are inexpensive to growers because they can be provided as unrooted cuttings.

2 Echinacea. The wide range of colors in echinacea pleases the consumer, especially with the new, hot colors now available. The growers are receiving plants that are better branched with more shoots, thus increasing viability.

3 Gaillardia. Gaillardias suffer from falling open as the plant ages, making it look bad in the container and the garden. Newer genetics provide for more upright, fuller plants. Consumers love the cheery flower colors and non-stop blooming, even in intense heat.

4 Geum. Geum have been out of the limelight for years due to mediocre varieties with a short bloom period. We are providing a full-growing plant with heavy rebloom in a rich orange color that is a big draw for the consumer’s current taste. Growers appreciate the fullness in the pot and the early bloom.

5 Helleborus. These provide consumers with a long-lived plant that grows in many different locations and exposures. Marietta O’Byrne has developed a stunning array of double forms in many colors. These doubles last much longer on the plant. Some last as long as three months. Retailers and growers like the extended bloom time and ease of cold growing culture.

6 Heuchera. Heucheras in their myriad forms and colors are as popular as ever–and even more so in England. They are still thought to be the perfect container plant. Though the market is getting crowded, uniqueness in foliage and flower still reigns. Growers enjoy the easy care and new options or lower costs through unrooted cuttings being offered from companies like Fides-Oro.

7 Heucherella. Heucherellas are different from heucheras. Southern gardeners swear they are the best. They have fascinating leaf shapes and colors with contrasting center zones. The newest forms have a trailing habit, suitable for a hanging basket, and do well as groundcovers. Are these a non-aggressive sweet potato vine substitute? Growers should treat as they would a heuchera.

8 Kniphofia. Kniphofias (knip-HOF-ee-yuhs) have undergone an amazing transition. These used to be coarse plants with broad foliage (that folds in an unsightly way), having a two-week flowering window. We have had success with two series: The Glow and The Popsicle series that sport grassy foliage and bloom from summer until frost. Consumers love the glowing hot color palette and endless bloom, and growers love the awesome vigor. Retailers love a plant that isn’t out of flower in a few weeks.

9 Nepeta. Groundcover catmints like ‘Walker’s Low’ can be 3 feet tall–a pain to growers and a maintenance problem for landscape crews. Newer offerings are extremely low, but vigorous, ever blooming and in an exciting new color. Consumers love them because they are tough as nails and growers love their ease of culture. These also come as unrooted cuttings to keep costs down.

10 Rudbeckia. These have been a standard for many years in the perennial world. Consumers loved the flowers on rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’ but 7-foot-tall plants that fall over are not a good selling point. Breeders have bred a stronger stemmed version that holds its own in ‘Little Henry.’ Consumers now have a fun choice for a small property.

Dan Heims (dan@terranovanurseries.com) is president of Terra Nova Nurseries in Canby, Ore. Learn more about Terra Nova at TerraNovaNurseries.com.

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