Reinventing Geraniums

Reinventing Geraniums

Breeders know they’ve produced a winning variety when other breeders strive to replicate and improve their originals. Breeders especially know they’ve got a winner when even their competitors tout how revolutionary their varieties are.

In geraniums, Syngenta Flowers’ Caliente and Calliope are clearly the ones others are trying to emulate.

“The color in Calliope set the new standard,” says Paul Hammer, research and development manager at Dömmen USA. “Our Cumbanita geraniums are going after that color and our Salsarita are being bred for the heat tolerance.”

Jim Kennedy, sales manager at Ball FloraPlant, agrees both Calliope and Caliente are groundbreaking. Years before Syngenta introduced Caliente, Ball FloraPlant unveiled Galleria as an interspecific that leans more ivy than zonal. Better heat tolerance for the ivies was the driver of Ball’s pursuit, but Syngenta’s introduction elevated geraniums to an even higher level.

“For us at Ball, the Calientes showed what was possible,” Kennedy says. “With Calientes, the promise of greater heat tolerance in an ivy was something that garnered a lot of attention from the big box buyers. As a breeding company, realizing the consumers and buyers have a huge influence on what ends up on the shelf, it cemented in our minds that better consumer performance was a path we needed to go down.”

Syngenta’s Journey

Heat tolerance was a big driver of Syngenta’s pursuit of Caliente, as well.

“Mitch Hanes, the breeder, wanted the ivies to have better branching and better heat tolerance because regular ivies don’t take heat very well,” says Karl Trellinger, technical service representative at Syngenta. “Mitch also wanted to eliminate growers’ troubles with edema.”

Caliente now features eight colors, including Deep Red, Hot Coral and Lavender. White is one color Caliente lacks, but Trellinger says Hanes continues to pursue a white and a few other colors. But perhaps more importantly, Syngenta wants its next Calientes to sport more flowers.

“They’re very good right now,” Trellinger says, “but we want even more flower power. When you look at ‘Caliente Orange,’ the flowers are bigger and you have more flower coverage. That’s where we’re going now.”

The next step for Calliope, meanwhile, is to expand beyond the existing two varieties and into a more complete series. Trellinger says those who attend next year’s California Spring Trials will find a few new Calliope introductions.

“You’re going to see some really interesting new colors in Calliope,” Trellinger says. “Right now we only have Scarlet Fire and Dark Red. We’ve been working on the colors for quite a long time. The colors we’re going to introduce will improve the vibrancy of existing colors in zonal geraniums. Right now, what you see in the zonals is not very vibrant. We want to make the color stronger.”

Astoundingly, Trellinger says Hanes spent about 15 years developing Calliope before it actually came to market. The original idea behind Calliope was to develop a true dark red, particularly one whose flowers don’t burn. Syngenta also wanted to improve geranium branching, vigor and heat tolerance.

Caliente was a big undertaking, as well, and having Caliente, Calliope and other interspecifics like them on the market better positions geraniums to consumers.

“We really think geraniums are gaining importance now,” Trellinger says. “We feel we can increase the market share of geraniums. With the new Calliopes and Calientes, there’s going to be more excitement and the performance is going to be so much better. It’s reinventing geraniums.”

Colors, Leaves & Cutting Quality

The fact that multiple breeders are ramping up programs for interspecifics affirms cross breeding is the future of the crop. But breeders are also focusing on other areas. Fides, for example, is focusing on bicolors like ‘Pop Idols Lilac with Eye.’ It continues to pursue that brand-new geranium color, as well.

“You’d like to find that color nobody has,” says Reinoud Hagen, commercial manager at Fides. “I can’t say we’re going after a blue geranium, but what’s impossible today could be possible tomorrow.”

In Europe, Hagen indicates five colors dominate the geranium market. The bigger market driver here in the United States, he says, is uniqueness, which offers breeders a way around not having complete series. Hagen also sees a growing market for dark-leaved geraniums, as does Dömmen’s Hammer.

“We’ve done a lot of work to get some vigor behind dark leaves,” Hammer says. “Consumers find the dark foliage against certain flower colors appealing.”

One geranium area in which breeders could improve is in unrooted cutting quality. Dömmen, for example, is shipping many cuttings out of Ethiopia, where Hammer says transit is smoother and geraniums aren’t sitting in airports for three or four days at a time like they can in other countries.

Ball FloraPlant and Paul Ecke Ranch are focusing on geranium cutting quality, as well. Ball’s Genesis and Ecke’s Snap callused-cutting programs are designed to shorten the time geraniums need on a grower’s bench. Providing cuttings that need less bench time should minimize shrink and eliminate yellowing in cuttings.

“We’re looking at ways to make geraniums more producible,” Kennedy says. “Geranium is very common in the marketplace and it’s very price competitive. So we’re looking at how we can bring a product that is a fresher cutting.”

Adds Hammer: “It makes a huge difference when a grower has a cutting that’s stressed versus one that’s Grade A.”

Variety Favorites

This year, Florida’s Costa Farms trialed geranium varieties from Dömmen, Ecke, Elsner PAC, Fides and Syngenta. The University of Georgia’s Allan Armitage got a peek at those trials earlier this year with Better Homes & Gardens’ Doug Jimerson and Disney’s Heather Will-Browne. All three served as judges for the entire trial.

Two geraniums, Syngenta’s ‘Caliente Orange’ and a Dömmen experimental variety, were among the top 16 varieties the judges selected in the entire trial. Dömmen’s Salsaritas rated highly, as well.

“I have been very, very impressed by the [Salsaritas],” Armitage says. “Pink is particularly good. (Dark) Red is also an excellent available geranium. I’m not sure where Salsa is going to be in the interspecific competition, but I think it’s going to be different than anything else out there.”

Another series that performed well at Costa earlier this year was Syngenta’s Pinto Premium. Kate Santos, director of research and development, says a lot of trial garden visitors were surprised to learn Pinto Premium is from seed based on their impressive performance.

To Costa Farms, a geranium is truly a remarkable one if it performs well in both a container and in the garden.

“It has to make two checkpoints for us before it moves into our production program,” Santos says. “It’s all well and good if you can grow it in a container, but there are enough examples out there that if you put a geranium in a garden, it doesn’t do well at all.”
The next geranium Santos would like to see is the one consumers don’t have to deadhead. Caliente, she says, is a step in that direction. Heat and drought tolerance are important geranium qualities, too.

“The longer a geranium lasts for the consumer, the more success they’ll have,” Santos says. “Plus, people have less time today.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Reinventing Geraniums

  1. I mostly do inground geraniums and like the Oglevee Patriots red and red/orange . The big ones, I winter over in the greenhouse. I had the Calliops in the ground and they did well, but the Partriots show better in the ground.. The Caliopes had huge roots on them when I pulled them out. I liked the Calliente orange. Looks much better in the pots and up a bit. To small for in ground. Keep up the good work. I buy mostly through Pikes Nursery. Chuck Landscaping. Cumming GA. { North GA }

Latest Stories
Mum With and Without Ammonium Toxicity

May 5, 2016

How Nitrogen Influences The pH Of Your Growing Medium

In standard greenhouse fertilizers, nitrogen is supplied as ammonium, nitrate, or urea. Each of these three nitrogen sources, when taken up by plant roots, produces different chemical reactions with differing effects on the growing medium pH.

Read More
As the pots continue around the carousel, bark is pushed into the pots and settles around the roots, which helps to avoid compaction in the growing media

May 5, 2016

Three Factors That Can Impact The pH Of Growth Media

Water alkalinity, fertilizer, and plant species can each play a role in the pH of your growth media.

Read More
HV-100 Robots (Harvest Automation)

May 3, 2016

Harvest Automation Makes Strong Commitment To Greenhous…

The company recently announced it is selling off its robotic warehouse automation business to focus more on providing robotic materials handling to the greenhouse, vegetable, and fruit markets.

Read More

May 3, 2016

Migrant Farm Workers Moving Around Less Than In The Pas…

The number of farm workers who migrate and work on multiple farms during the growing season dropped from 55% in 1998 to 20% in 2009.

Read More
Wave Petunias Team

May 3, 2016

Hot Pink Wave-Rave Van Making Its Way To The Big Apple …

Imagine driving down the road, minding your own business, when you’re passed by two smiling, waving, happy women driving a hot-pink van that’s adorned with petunia and pansy flowers. That’s not something you see every day, but motorists in the Midwest and Northeast may catch a glimpse of the Wave-Rave van this week as Ball Horticultural Co.’s Claire Watson, Product Marketing Manager, and Katie Rotella, Marketing Communications Manager, make their way to a media tour and plant giveaway in New York City. Watson and Rotella visited Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 news on Tuesday morning to tell consumers about Wave Petunias and Wave Pansies, and remind them to visit their local garden centers to purchase gifts for Mother’s Day this weekend. Check out this clip on Periscope. After the morning news, the ladies stopped by to visit the Greenhouse Grower staff at Meister Media Worldwide in Willoughby, OH. Next stop: Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, NY, where […]

Read More
National Garden Bureau CAST 2016 Bloggers

May 3, 2016

5 Things Gardens Bloggers And Writers Learned At Califo…

For the second year in a row, the National Garden Bureau hosted five popular garden bloggers and writers on a trip to California Spring Trials. Here’s what each of them had to say about their experience.

Read More

May 3, 2016

SNA’s Summer Tradeshow Is Revamped As SEGreen

SNA is hosting a new summer show, SE Green, in Athens, GA. It mixes a conference for Southeast-based landscapers, growers, and retailers, with exhibitors.

Read More

May 2, 2016

A Fire At A New Hampshire Garden Center Challenges Spri…

Petal Pushers Farm in Laconia, NH, suffered a two-alarm fire two weeks prior to Mother's Day Weekend. It is already back up and running, but is scrambling to replace its losses.

Read More

May 2, 2016

Surprise Customers With Over-The-Top Service This Mothe…

The day before Thanksgiving a few years ago, I reluctantly pulled into Central Market’s parking lot. Central Market is a popular, high-end Texas grocery store chain, the luxury brand for the middle-of-the-road HEB stores. As expected, the parking lot was packed. There wasn’t a space in the main part of the sizable lot, so I had to park some distance away. It wasn’t a promising start to what I fully expected to be an irritating afternoon. But I was making butternut squash soup and providing wine for the holiday dinner the next day, and so I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. I was doomed to endure the busiest shopping day of the year for grocery stores. I grabbed a mini double-decker cart, resigned to cranky crowds and jostling for space in the produce aisles. I walked in and paused to figure out where I could find the butternut squash. Almost instantly, an […]

Read More
Small Aphid Colony on Calibrachoa

May 2, 2016

How To Stop Aphids In The Greenhouse

When untreated, aphids damage ornamental crops and act as vectors for disease. Integrated Pest Management combined with vigilant scouting can help you stay ahead of the problem.

Read More
Priva FS Reader

May 2, 2016

What’s New In Greenhouse Environmental Controls

Growers today are looking for systems that save energy, are easy to use, and can be accessed remotely. New products from leading manufacturers are designed to tap into these needs.

Read More
PMA Floral Anaheim

May 1, 2016

Produce Marketing Association Plans Floral Supply Chain…

The PMA Fresh Connections: Floral events will unveil new market research and trends, while offering insights into the changing landscape of floral retailing.

Read More
Farwest Show Floor

April 30, 2016

Registration Is Open For Farwest 2016 In Portland, OR

This year’s show takes place Aug. 25-27 and features educational sessions, nursery and retail tours, and an expansive trade show floor.

Read More
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Natureworks Monarch life cycle caterpillar FEATURE

April 29, 2016

Do Customers Really Care How Plants Are Grown?

The consumer uprising against neonicotinoids has roiled the industry over the past couple of years. In June 2013, someone applied pesticide to a tree in full bloom, using the product in an off-label manner. That misapplication killed tens of thousands of bees, capturing the attention of activists. A short three years later, that activism has led to policy changes for big chains like The Home Depot and Lowe’s. Several cities and towns across the country have banned the sale of neonicotinoids, as has the state of Maryland. All of this made me curious. How was all the publicity affecting consumer attitudes at local garden stores? Traditionally, customers have shown little interest in how flowering plants are grown, other than they like the idea that they are from a local source. They have been much more particular about food plants than they have ornamentals. So I sent questions out to a […]

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More

April 28, 2016

Holistic, Integrated Approach To Pest Control Rooted In…

Greenhouse growers have been practicing integrated pest management for decades, but it’s becoming increasingly more important with the continued scrutiny of conventional pest control by a number of “regulators” — government, retail, and consumers. I just returned from Meister Media Worldwide’s Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference, in Monterey, CA, at the beginning of March this year, which served 450 attendees and 50 exhibiting supplier companies. It’s clear from the presentations and the growing attendance at this specialized event — now only in its second year — that use of biocontrols in IPM will continue to be adopted widely, as more growers get past their personal hurdles of doubt and intimidation, and embrace a new way to approach pest and disease control. Many growers think of using biocontrols as an all-or-nothing approach, but ultimately, IPM is about balance. Growers will need to continue to focus on IPM, integrating chemistry with biology, because […]

Read More
Drip irrigated citrus liner

April 27, 2016

Unclog Drip Emitters In Your Greenhouse

This is the first article in a series of case studies designed to help growers reduce, remediate, and recycle irrigation water as part of a multi-state research grant (CleanWateR3.org).

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]