Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation.
This month we feature Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame,’ an intergeneric cross of Bergenia and Mukdenia. ‘Nova Flame’ is one of a kind, but not an oddity by any means. It develops deep, emerald-green leaves in the spring and has clusters of miniature, Bergenia-like flowers. As fall approaches, ‘Nova Flame’ begins to take on its classic, dramatic coloration with a brilliant, scarlet flame pattern.
Growing Tips From Andrej Suske, T&L Nursery
Andrej Suske, general manager of T&L Nursery in Redmond, WA, says Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ is a great new introduction that will work well for spring and fall sales. One of the plant’s most striking features is its fall foliage color. Here are his recommendations for growing ‘Nova Flame’ successfully:
Fertilizer: Normal, EC (electrical conductivity) 1.5
Propagation: Stage 3 tissue culture or buy plugs
Plant Growth Regulators: Not needed
Lighting: Not needed, grown in full sun
Pinching: Not needed
Growing Media: Typical media as used for other crops
Irrigation: Grow just like a normal crop. Suske says, “I imagine you would get leaf burn if they dry out too much. The foliage is what sells the plant. If you run them on the dry side in late summer (but not wilting), you may get more foliage color earlier, which would be attractive.”
Planting/Scheduling: For 1-gallon containers, plant ‘Nova Flame’ in June to get nice full plants. For spring sales, Suske says, growers need to bulk the plant in summer because they do no start growing very early in the spring. “These are deciduous!” he says. “They bloom before they make leaves in the spring.”
Suske grows high-quality container perennials on 40 acres in Redmond, WA. T&L Nursery started 30 years ago as a U-pick operation and now sells plants to independent garden centers and landscapers.
Growing Tips From Lorne Blackman, Walla Walla Nursery
Lorne Blackman, President and co-owner of Walla Walla Nursery, grew Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ from Stage 3 tissue culture to retail container. He started potted plugs in the greenhouse around March 1 and sold most of the plants green by summer. The plants did not require vernalization for bloom.
Blackman did not use plant growth regulators on the plants. He says the crop did not require pinching because the plants produce only basal foliage. Blackman says he used a typical bark based growing medium with a medium, slow release fertilizer. The plants had low to average watering needs. He had no problems with pests and diseases.
“The plants were trouble-free, fairly vigorous, and easy to grow,” Blackman says. “The only tip I would recommend is that more light will probably help the foliage color.”
Blackman grows perennials, grasses, woody plants, and liners on about 30 acres in Walla Walla, WA. The nursery ships weekly throughout the Northwest region and in Utah and Northern California.
Production Quick Facts From Terra Nova Nurseries
Zone: 3 to 9
Fertilizer: 75 to 100 ppm
pH: 5.6 to 6.9
EC: 0.5 to 0.7
Finishing: 8 to 10 weeks for plug to 4 inch pot
Water: Allow to dry slightly between watering
Recommendations from Chuck Pavlich, Director of New Product Development
1. Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’ just like a bergenia, or even a heuchera. Avoid heavy pesticide use.
2. Do not bury the crown of the liner. If the “shoulder” of the liner is exposed, that is acceptable.
3. ‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter
4. No plant growth regulators are needed.
5. ‘Nova Flame’ can ship early. It has a long shelf life and multi-season interest.