Whether you’re a grower who wants the convenience of multi-liner mixes, or one who likes to get inventive with your combos, there’s plenty of new material to create stunning mixed containers. If you stick with the status quo of tossing a few annuals together and labeling it a combo, you’ll be left behind. Here are four trends to watch in the mixed container category that will fetch high prices at retail.
Monochromatic And Single Genus Color Mixes Are Hot
Monochromatic mixes, such as Syngenta Flowers’ Color My Sunset Kwik Kombos with its blend of orange hues, are showing up everywhere. Single genus color combos, particularly mixes of three colors of one species such as Danziger’s Mixis Cleantha Combo are also popular. Ball FloraPlant’s heat-tolerant MixMasters, Lucky Charm (lantana) and Summer Bouquet (angelonia), are new monoculture combos for multi-liner programs in 2017. PanAmerican Seed’s Paradise Island mix of Kabloom calibrachoa is the first of its kind offered as a Plug & Play Fuseable.
Dümmen Orange is giving Duo mixes, two different-colored plants of the same genus, a second try this year because they provide the dramatic pop of color consumers are after. Dancing Jeans is the newest Duo in the Confetti Garden line.
Continuous color in the form of seasonal combos is also a hit with consumers. This year, Proven Winners expanded its National Recipes program to help growers extend sales from spring through fall with three new recipes: Above & Beyond (spring), Backyard BBQ (summer), and Honeybelle (fall).
Other breeders are looking to keep combos simple for growers. Benary is taking the guesswork out of containers with its new One Touch Combinations that put the control back in growers’ hands. The company will provide the varieties and percentages of each color in the mix, selling the seeds in solid-color packets. Growers can sow them in individual flats, mix them when they bump them up to finished containers, and plant them in packs with exactly the right number of each color. New One Touch Combinations include Lollipop Flaming Hot Melon and Lollipop Berry Darling.
Sakata Ornamentals has two new SuperCal mixes out: Summer Sensation and Garden Magic. At California Spring Trials 2017, it will feature a simple two-color mix of its new SuperCal Colors Red Crimson and Buttercream. The SuperCal combos have great early season cool weather tolerance, can last all summer, and go well into the fall.
Finally, Suntory Flowers is venturing into the combo arena, with the addition of its BeeDance bidens series that come in three mixes: Bee Fabulous, Bee Gorgeous, and Bee-utiful. Another combo from Suntory is a single-species mix of its double petunias, which is ideal for gifting on Easter and Mother’s Day.
Tropical And Foliage Combos Take The Focus Off Flowers
Suntory Flowers has also teamed up with EuroAmerican Propagators to create three new combinations from mixes of three catharanthus colors in the Soiree Ka-wa-i-i and the Soiree Double Series.
Combinations using tropical plants with eye-catching flowers are always a hit with consumers, but foliage combinations can be just as striking. For instance, Dümmen Orange’s new Confetti Garden Trafalgar Square, a combination of three coleus varieties, was a top performer at field trials across the U.S. this year and a top pick on several consumer-favorite lists.
“Foliage combos can still be bold and bright, but without a focus on the flower,” says Joyce Mast, Combo Program Manager for Ball FloraPlant/Selecta One. “The newer combo-friendly coleus and ipomoea on the market play nice with their pot-mates, and their colors really pop while providing great texture. Also consider spider plant or Boston fern; the chartreuse colors really capture the light.”
The shift in breeding toward container-friendly genetics is a direct result of consumers’ increased interest in container gardening. For example, Sakata Ornamentals specifically breeds its Party Time coleus to be 12 to 16 inches tall when mature with a semi-trailing habit.
“The driving force for these items is providing great colors, textures, and sun-to-shade ability in mixed combinations without having them taking over the other items in the containers,” says Brad Smith, Retail Category Manager for Sakata Ornamentals.
Artemisia and centaurea can set off bright blooms with their silver foliage, says Dan Heims, President of Terra Nova Nurseries. For the holidays, Heims suggests using coleus in mixed containers, combined with begonia.
“Hipsters and Color Clouds coleus could combine with a whole new line of Christmas foliage plants that are easier to raise than poinsettias because they don’t need plant growth regulators and can grow in a cooler house,” he says.
Nontraditional Container Components Offer Year-Round Color
Another trend catching on is the use of evergreen foliage perennials and small, pot-adapted shrubs, accented seasonally with annuals.
Dennis Crum, Director of Growing at Four Star Greenhouse and Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 Grower Of the Year, says he has noticed a significant increase in the use of shrubs for combination centerpieces, especially to bring seasonal interest to traditional color combinations.
Designers are also combining succulents with perennials and annuals to provide consumers with combinations of water-wise plants that provide vivid color.
Amanda Flint, New Product Development Manager for EuroAmerican Propagators, says she has seen a huge movement toward colorful succulent combos both indoors and out.
Added-Value Perennial Combinations Extend The Season
“More planters are using all season blooming perennials for added value for customers,” says Kathy McKay, Sales Manager at Flamingo Holland. “The Garvinea Sweet series is an example of this trend. It flowers all summer and mixes easily with heuchera, sedums, etc. for an easy-care planter.”
Westhoff and Florist Holland are using Garvinea Gerberas to produce combinations of annuals with gerberas in the middle, marketing them as a Mingle With Garvinea concept for mixed containers.
The Ball Seed and Darwin Perennials team created five new Rhythmix mixes combining seed and vegetative perennial varieties to keep production costs down. Boogie Blues is an especially striking mix with contrasting colors and textures set off by the thrill and spill of Stipa ‘Ponytails.
Drought-tolerant grasses and grass-like varieties have become a trendy addition to containers, with many great varieties to choose from, for example, Sweetflag, Lemongrass, Andropogon gerardii ‘Blackhawks’ and Miscanthus ‘Autumn Red.’ Grasses, along with sedums, are great for novice gardeners, says Joan Mazat, Ball Seed Business Manager for Potted Plants, Poinsettias and Cut Flowers, because they can withstand more neglect and still look great.
Mazat develops perennial container solutions for Ball Seed that growers can use to create combos to fit any program or container size. Zoltan Kovacs, Perennial Product Manager at Dümmen Orange, is also creating perennial combination recipes with interchangeable components, which gives growers more flexibility to mix and match.
Green Fuse Botanicals introduced two new perennial mixes for its Compatibles line. Skipping Rocks and In The Pink include dianthus for a different texture within the container. Growers can root the mixes in one liner size with all genetics finishing in color.