Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Spring Annuals

Breeders face the difficult task of bringing new spring annuals to market that offer the whole package ─ production ease for the grower, shelf appeal for the retailer, and success for the end consumer. Here’s are five characteristics they look for in the new annuals they introduce, and consequently, what you can expect from new introductions for retail in 2018.

Balance Between Production Performance and Garden Performance

Greenhouse crop performance is essential for growers, while garden performance is what helps consumers feel successful. Breeders look for plants that offer a combination of both.

“Earliness and uniformity can make such a difference to the grower, allowing for a quick turnaround and fantastic looking, full packs in the stores, but this is all too often traded for garden performance,” says Amy Gard’ner, Floranova Product Manager for North America. “We always strive for optimal performance, not only for the grower, but also for the end consumer.”

Floranova’s dwarf snapdragron Crackle n’ Pop Series is an example of early and uniform flowering in a pack, Gard’ner says, with the added benefit of better branching, which allows for an abundance of color all season long.

Gary Vollmer, Technical Product Representative for Selecta, says his company tries to breed earliness in spring annuals wherever it can, and create products that provide attractive presentations at point-of-sale. While early flowering offers the necessary point-of-sale color, Selecta will not sacrifice vigor, habit, and performance to achieve that goal.

“Historically, there is a negative relationship with early flowering and summer performance,” he says. “We are trialing extensively to find varieties (and species) that will give both.”

Improved Plant Habits That Hold Up Under Pressure

Breeders also look to improve the plant habits of new spring annuals to help them withstand the rigors of shipping and retail. Sakata Ornamentals’ Candy Tops snapdragon series was bred to solve the problem of weak, floppy plants that don’t sell through at retail, says Key Account Manager Greg Gabrels. By combining dwarf and indeterminate genetics, the breeder created a plant that fits in packs and small pots but has a strong central stem that will hold up during shipping and handling from the greenhouse to the retail bench.

Longer Shelf Life

Many of the characteristics breeders look for in their annuals that benefit growers also benefit retailers and consumers, such as longevity, which reduces losses for the grower, improves presentation at retail, and encourages consumer success.

“We are working on shelf life,” says Mike Fernandez, North American Market Manager for Danziger. “As we all know, pay by scan in different forms is a reality for a large portion of the market. Added shelf life will help reduce losses for growers.”

Ball FloraPlant is focused on selecting spring annuals that will provide longevity for the consumer through heat trialing in Texas, Florida, and the Midwest to make sure that a good variety for a grower also translates to consumer success, says Product Launch and Assortment Manager Kris Carlsson.

“At the end of the day, we need our consumers to be successful to drive repeat sales for the grower,” he says.

Less Need for Inputs

In addition to improving shelf life, Danziger is also working hard on controlled growth to reduce the need for plant growth regulators and make production simpler for growers, Fernandez says. Other breeders have similar goals.

“We put an emphasis on the plant’s genetical attributes as it pertains to minimization of grower input, which equates to retail sustainability,” says Jim Devereux, Vice President, at Green Fuse Botanicals. “Many times, plants have so many applications applied that they look great at receipt to the store, but crash shortly after. We are actively breeding so selections chosen have the natural habit desired by the grower and the longer sales window desired by the retailer.”

Unique Solutions That Perform

Bringing out a new variety takes years of selection and trialing for breeders, and it doesn’t stop there.

“In today’s market, it is not enough to publish a new or improved cultivar in the catalog; you must support the grower with a retail package to ensure sell-through in the retail chain,” says Emily Mason, Annuals Integrated Product Team Lead at Dümmen Orange.

Dümmen Orange focuses on continuous improvement of all of its series, as well as innovation in new cultivars and solutions for the growers. To do this, it judges its varieties in varying commercial production settings and in trial gardens that are representative of the climates where the lines are commercialized.

“Our product teams are constantly in close contact with our growers and farm managers to evaluate the quality of unrooted cuttings arriving at our customers’ doors,” Mason says. “This makes it very easy to identify solutions and opportunities while simultaneously keeping us close to the product.”

Find out why Eccentricity is the New Black for Spring Annuals with retailers.

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