Fall Crop Alternatives That Can Increase Your Sales

Snaptastic Orange Flame (Syngenta Flowers)
Syngenta’s Snaptastic Snapdragon Series comes in five colors and has performed well during field trials. Pictured: ‘Snaptastic Orange Flame’

Mums are the money-making “poinsettia” of the fall season for growers. They’re classics that deliver the vivid smack of color consumers crave amidst the neutral, brown tones of autumn. Too bad their bloom time is short-lived, and there’s a glut of them on the market. Not to mention, consumers want a fresh look.

Conveniently, the line-up of new varieties to grow for 2017 holds loads of opportunities for growers looking to expand fall sales and offer something beyond mums, whether it is crops that only last from summer to winter or those that can be planted in fall for spring color.

Chrysanthemum Key Lime (Ball Ingenuity)
The ‘Key Lime’ mum (Ball Ingenuity) is the first truly green mum in North America.

Big Color For Instant Impact Trending With Fall Plants

“When we look at the fall market, we see consumers focusing on decorating and instant gratification, looking for instantaneous color to put on the deck or porch. We have seen a difference in consumers looking for other options in fall crops. They are after something new to complement their mums,” says Kevin Roethle, Head of New Product Development at Ball Ingenuity.

Westhoff’s Bracteantha Cottage Series is one option with a long bloom time that offers textural appeal that mums cannot. The series comes in seven colors that can be mixed in combos. It also includes an Autumn Mix.

Roethle says Ball Ingenuity is looking at plants that expand the fall palette to other species besides mums, but it also wants to push the envelope within the mum category. One result is the ‘Key Lime’ mum, the first truly green garden mum, which turns chartreuse when mature. It has medium-sized flowers, which work great for decorating with other fall crops.

Fall Combo Containers Offer Unlimited Opportunities

Much of gardening has become about decorating. More than any other season, fall seems to inspire nature-based decorating schemes in many homeowners. Consumers want their porches and decks festively decorated with mums and combination planters that provide the perfect backdrop for pumpkins, cornstalks, and scarecrows. They want on-the-spot color that comes in a full autumn palette, and they want it to last.

There is no better way to dress up mums than fall combo containers. Offering combo components either separately or in a ready-made mix is a great way to extend fall sales. Ornamental grasses and veggies such as kale and cabbage are popular thrill-and-fill items, while trailers like violas, heuchera, and dusty miller can provide the spill.

Zoltan Kovacs, Perennial Product Manager at Dümmen Orange, has developed some perennial combos, growing components together in liners that finish at the same time. These mixes are made up using 15 different perennial varieties that don’t require vernalization. The possible combinations are endless and offer added value for consumers. Kovacs is making it easy for consumers to get the same look by mapping out the component recipes.

Green Fuse Botanicals, Kieft Seed, and Darwin Perennials also displayed some promising perennial combos at Spring Trials.

Prizm Kale (Syngenta Flowers)
Syngenta Flowers’ Kale ‘Prizm’ is the first kale variety to receive an All-America Selections award, due to its ornamental and edible appeal.

Edibles With Ornamental Appeal, A Perfect Fit For Fall

Ornamental-veggie combinations in both landscapes and containers are a popular trend with gardeners, as well, and a natural choice for fall.

“We’re seeing more veggies mixed into fall containers and in the ground,” says Heather Kibble, Home Grown Marketing Manager for Sakata. “The dark-green and burgundy of fall vegetables like kale, lettuce, beets, and Swiss chard supplement traditional fall flowers. I have also noticed veggies in decorative fall arrangements and table decorations, even for fall wedding décor and bouquets.”

Why not consider offering a line of fall vegetables? It could be a mix of “veggimentals,” edibles with ornamental appeal, such as flowering kale, cabbage, or ornamental corn and millet. or foodies, Sakata’s new ‘Fresh Start’ and ‘Fresh Cool’ beetless-beets, grown for their baby greens, are quick crops that can be planted closely together for maximum yield.

PanAmerican Seed’s Handpicked Collection, which includes the Simply Salad varieties and herbs, works well for fall gardening. There’s also the new ‘Sedona Sun’ and ‘Hot Pops Purple’ ornamental peppers that would add a splash of color to containers and landscape beds. And Burpee’s Masterpiece pea offers a unique addition for cool-season growing.

Another edible pick is Syngenta Flower’s ‘Prizm’ Kale, an All-America Selections award winner, with ornamental appeal that works for both containers and the landscape.

Calibrachoa Chameleon Sunshine Berry (Westflowers) - Feature
The Chameleon Calibrachoa Series (Westhoff/Dümmen Orange) is an industry first with ever-changing colors throughout the season.

Other Alternatives For Fall Production

Snaptastic snapdragons, another new variety from Syngenta, also has potential for fall. This series stood out for performance at the Costa Farms Season Premier in Florida and at EuroAmerican Propagators’ in-ground trials in California. These snapdragons are aggressive bloomers with nice, bright colors. The series includes five colors.

Muckgenia Nova Flame (Terra Nova Nurseries)
A new intergeneric cross between a mukdenia and a bergenia, Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ (Terra Nova Nurseries) is a vigorous grower with good late-season color.

In addition to color, timing is an important consideration for growers when selecting fall crops. Celosia fits in naturally because it times well with mums and has long-lasting blooms. American Takii showed the potential for marketing celosia to consumers with its Spring Trials display promoting its Armor series of cristata-type celosia. The display, titled the Zombie Zone, played off the popular zombie craze with an “Armor Yourself” theme and fun, kid-focused marketing materials.

Although not a new introduction for 2017, Sakata’s Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath,’ a seed-propagated, plume-type celosia, fits this category. And PanAmerican Seed displayed a new blood-red Celosia ‘Dracula,’ while Ball Ingenuity showed off a new Twisted series of vegetative celosia that included a nice Orange color. Beekenkamp has some new celosias out, too. The Kelos Fire and Kelos Atomic series are daylength neutral and have a wide color range.

New calibrachoas are coming out in harvest colors and don’t have to be limited to spring and summer. Proven Winners’ Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Tropical Sunrise’ generates masses of orange-colored flowers and can withstand frost. The Calibrachoa Chameleon Series from Westhoff and Dümmen Orange, is an industry first with ever-changing colors. Daylength, temperatures, and the weather cause dramatic changes in the coloration of this series for the fall season.

Finally, there’s a new intergeneric cross from Terra Nova Nurseries with great fall color. Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ is a vigorous grower with the vibrant, late-season color of Mukgenia ‘Crimson Fans’ and the beautiful rose-pink flowers of bergenia. It’s hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

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