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
University of Georgia Trial Gardens

June 30, 2016

First-Ever Academy Of Crop Production Offers Snapshot O…

Hosted by the Georgia Green Industry Association and the University of Georgia Department of Horticulture, the three-day conference covered everything from unmanned aerial vehicles to remote-sensing greenhouse control systems.

Read More
SunPatiens Sakata Medal of Excellence Feature

June 29, 2016

SunPatiens Earns The 2016 Medal Of Excellence In Market…

With its reputation for excellent garden performance from spring to frost, and as a problem-solver for Impatiens Downy Mildew, SunPatiens has become a “hero plant” that helps gardeners succeed.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

June 28, 2016

Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye T…

My reflections on promising new plants, the realities of market penetration, and adding value along the supply chain.

Read More

June 28, 2016

10 Things You Need To Do Before And During Cultivate’16

From pre-planning to on-site networking and education, here are 10 things to consider before you depart for Cultivate’16.

Read More

June 28, 2016

How “Brexit” Will Affect The Horticulture Industry

The news this week of Great Britain’s departure from the European Union has sent shockwaves through many industries, including horticulture. Here’s a look at the potential effects of “Brexit” across the horticulture and floriculture industries.

Read More
iPad In Garden Center

June 27, 2016

Inspiring Summer Customers Without A Word Being Said

Now is the time of year to sell your customers what they like, rather than what they need. According to industry consultant Ian Baldwin, one way to do this is to use silent selling techniques and devices that help validate a purchase.

Read More
Oconomowoc

June 27, 2016

Fire Destroys Greenhouses At Oconomowoc Landscape Suppl…

The fire not only consumed the Wisconsin garden retailer's structures, but also major equipment like dump trucks. In all, the owners estimate $1.2 million in damage occurred.

Read More
Robert Conrad, Ball Seed Technology Research Manager

June 27, 2016

Ball Premier Lab Wins Medal Of Excellence Award For Its…

Over the past 30 years, the Ball Premier Lab has set the standard for high-quality seed in the industry, earning it Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Medal Of Excellence for Industry Achievement, for its dedication to advancing seed and helping growers improve their margins.

Read More
Greenhouse Whitefly

June 26, 2016

Michigan State University Offers Tips On Whitefly Manag…

Whiteflies are making headlines in Florida, but they are found across the U.S. Michigan State experts say it’s important to know how to manage each type of whitefly.

Read More
Schaefer Exhaust Fan

June 26, 2016

What’s New In Greenhouse Cooling

Cooling and ventilation companies, as well as structures suppliers, are working to help growers manage efficiencies. Here are some of their latest innovations.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
North Creek Nurseries lower trials

June 24, 2016

North Creek Nurseries Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation …

North Creek Nurseries in Landenberg, PA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Sustainable Production award for 2016.

Read More
Cal Poly Logo

June 24, 2016

Cal Poly Ag College Hosting Alumni Reception At Cultiva…

Alumni and friends of The Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences are invited to a reception that will be held Sunday, July 10.

Read More
Stocking spring plants at Petitti Garden Center FEATURE

June 23, 2016

How Growers Can Help Retailers Sell More In Spring

Fresh from a busy spring season, retailers share their wish list of things growers can do to make spring generate even more sales.

Read More
Houwelings Tomatoes

June 23, 2016

Houweling’s Tomatoes Has A New Corporate Head Grower

Arie van der Giessen, who has led the horticultural operations for many successful regional and national greenhouse operators in North America, will start his new role in September.

Read More
Vic Frey, Kurt Weiss Greenhouses Feature

June 23, 2016

Vic Frey Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of The Y…

Vic Frey, a finalist for the 2016 Head Grower of the Year and recipient of the 2016 Excellence In Production award, was always willing to trial and experiment with the latest technology. He loved the constant change in this industry, and turned every opportunity into a teaching moment.

Read More

June 21, 2016

Sign Up For The First-Ever Flower Run At Cultivate’16

When you pack your bags for Cultivate’16 in Columbus, OH, July 9-12, don’t forget your running shoes! There are still three weeks left to train for the first annual Luxflora Flower Run, which will kick off the start of Cultivate’16 on Sunday morning, July 10. The Flower Run celebrates Luxflora‘s mission to develop a visionary, influential floriculture network in which women leaders can create, inspire, and flourish. The 5k event is an opportunity for all floriculture professionals to come together to network, build relationships, and to have some healthy fun. Running is not required – this event is walker-friendly, as well. If you opt to be an observer rather than run/walk, then join your friends at the finish line to help shower the participants with flowers. Register yourself or your company’s team today, to join in on the fun. Free Flower Run tshirts will be available to participants, while supplies […]

Read More
BASF Orkestra Intrinsic

June 21, 2016

New Mode Of Action From BASF Offers Deeper Disease Cont…

When it comes to disease control, you need all the help you can get. BASF recently hosted growers, Extension personnel, and trade media to present its newest fungicide with two active ingredients, offering dual modes of action.

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