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
Cart-with-RFID-Tag

November 24, 2017

How RFID Technology Can Help With Plant Cart Tracking

One of the biggest hassles in the greenhouse is keeping track of all those shipping carts. Improved RFID technology for cart tracking may be one solution to help keep profit losses due to lost or damaged carts at a minimum.

Read More
Upper-garden_Mast-Young

November 24, 2017

2017 Mast Young Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results from Mast Young Plants in Grand Rapids, MI.

Read More
Pentas-Graffitti-Lipstick

November 23, 2017

2017 Dallas Arboretum Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Dallas Arboretum in Dallas, TX.

Read More
Svensson-Deco-Harmony-Screens

November 23, 2017

Climate Screens Offer Both Form and Functional Benefits

Svensson’s new line of Deco Harmony screens is designed to create better growing conditions for plants on display at retail, while enhancing the customer experience.

Read More
ASCFG-Gretel-and-Steve-Adams-Sunny-Meadow-Flower-Farm-feature

November 22, 2017

Growers Showing Renewed Interest in Specialty Cut Flowe…

At the brink of its 30th anniversary, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers is connecting a diverse and growing group of members dedicated to producing and marketing cut flowers.

Read More
Griffin Pennsylvania Expo

November 22, 2017

Griffin Sets Dates for 2018 Grower & Retailer Expos

The company will host two Expos next year — one each in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — and each will be a two-day event.

Read More
Pentas-Lucky-Star-Red

November 22, 2017

2017 Louisiana State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results Louisiana State University in Hammond, LA.

Read More
Echeveria-First-Lady

November 21, 2017

2017 D.S. Cole Growers Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH.

Read More
Botany-Lane-Tropical

November 20, 2017

Botany Lane Greenhouses Announces Expansion Into Young …

Botany Lane, a producer of finished tropical plants, succulents, and specialty annuals in the Western U.S., recently announced it is expanding to provide young plants for growers and grower-retailers.

Read More
Millet-Copper-Prince

November 20, 2017

2017 Colorado State University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.

Read More
Achillea-Ritzy-Ruby

November 19, 2017

2017 Green Leaf Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Green Leaf Plants in Lancaster, PA.

Read More
Ball-Bed-with-Midnight-Snack-tomato_Cornell

November 18, 2017

2017 Cornell University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Read More
Valtl-Raffeiner-with-Mayer-Potting-Machine

November 18, 2017

Mayer Celebrating 50th Anniversary of its Potting Machi…

Today, the company’s line of automatic potting machines and other technology is being used by growers around the world.

Read More
Berger-Equipment

November 17, 2017

How You Can Help Berger in Donating to Hurricane Harvey…

Between Nov. 23-27, Berger will donate $1 for every download of its free technical plant production guides to hurricane relief efforts.

Read More
Pepper Cayenne ‘Red Ember’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

November 17, 2017

Presenting All-America Selections’ Latest Round of Awar…

All-America Selections has announced the latest round of its award-winning varieties, each of which was trialed throughout North America by professional, independent, volunteer judges.

Read More
Damarys-Mora-Crawford-Costa-Farms

November 16, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Marketing Director Eager to Tap Into C…

In her new position, Damarys Mora Crawford will lead Costa Farms’ marketing team and create and execute strategic marketing initiatives to support continued sales growth for the company’s retail customers.

Read More

November 15, 2017

Greenhouse Short Course in March 2018 Features Focus on…

The Greenhouse Crop Production & Engineering Design Short Course, which takes place at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC), includes three full days of educational sessions, one day of hands-on training workshops at CEAC, and a commercial Arizona greenhouse tour.

Read More
Adding-Heat-to-a-Greenhouse-GrowSpan

November 15, 2017

Tips on Adding Heat to Your Greenhouse for the Winter

Heating your greenhouse for the winter is important, and choosing efficient equipment and designs can help you quickly get returns on your heating investments.

Read More