Editor’s Note: Each month, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team chooses one noteworthy variety we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation.
This month we feature the Chameleon Calibrachoa series from Westhoff Flowers/Dümmen Orange. ‘Chameleon Blueberry Scone’ received an Honorable Mention from Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Medal of Excellence in Breeding award program. The Chameleon Calibrachoa series is an industry first, with ever-changing colors throughout the day and season.
The flower patterns of the different varieties in the Chameleon Calibrachoa series stood out to Doug Cole, President of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH, who says the colors in each flower were exceptional due to the contrast from one part to another.
“One of the big surprises was that the summer habit and color of the flowers was the same as their spring show,” Cole says. “The plants continued to have good growth habit and clean, crisp flower colors and patterns throughout the summer, long after spring greenhouse production.”
Cole grew Chameleon Calibrachoa during the spring of 2016. He says the strong performance of the series overall impressed him. His favorite is ‘Chameleon Sunshine Berry,’ due to its strong, contrasting flower color and pattern. In addition to the intriguing color patterns, the flowers of all the varieties change color throughout their development.
Cole’s Recommendations For Chameleon Calibrachoa
Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer balanced between nitrogen (N) and potassium (K). Phosphorous (P) should be kept to a minimum. Although a small amount of N in the ammonium form creates rich, green foliage, be careful not to add too much, since growth can become too vigorous. If pH is not kept below 6, it is advisable to add iron and possibly manganese (MN) chelates to the irrigation water.
Propagation: Use as little mist as possible to avoid the leaching of nutrients from the tissue and media. It is important to make contact between the base of the cutting and the substrate the cutting is stuck in. There is no need for rooting hormones. Root at a minimum of 70°F substrate temperature. As soon as small root initials have formed, turn off any mist cycle. Once the newly rooted plants are turgid without any mist, it is important to move them to a sunny location and to feed them.
Plant Growth Regulators: PGR regimes vary for calibrachoa, depending on the applicator’s comfort level and experience. Sumagic sprays at 10 to 20 ppm are common for use on calibrachoa and so are Bonzi drenches of 2 to 4 ppm. These recommendations are guidelines only, and southern growers might find the need for much higher rates and/or higher frequencies.
Lighting: Lighting to create long days is often used in the liner stages of calibrachoa to be sure to get good vegetative growth early in the crop. Once the liners are potted, it is not important to create long days. Of course, the more total light the crop can have, the better and faster the growth will be.
Pinching: Typically, one pinch should be adequate, as these varieties will branch well on their own. If the overall shape of the plant is not pleasing, then one or more pinches are recommended.
Growing Media: A typical substrate created for most spring annuals should fit the bill for growing Chameleon Calibrachoa, as long as the pH can be maintained below 6 for the life of the crop. It is best to have the EC of the substrate above 1 and below 2. To avoid iron and manganese deficiencies, keep the pH of the substrate below 6.
Irrigation: Water Chameleon Calibrachoa the same as other calibrachoa. It is important to allow the substrate to dry down to the point just before plants wilt and to then water completely. Both top watering and bottom watering work well as long as you monitor the EC and pH of the substrate.
Pests: The most common pests of Chameleon Calibrachoa are aphids and thrips. Many biological regimes can keep pests to a minimum. At times, hot spots can occur, and using a chemical insecticide may be the best solution.
Diseases: As with any calibrachoa, we recommend one fungicide drench to avoid Thielaviopsis.
Production Quick Facts From Westhoff Flowers
Growing Medium: Well-drained, disease-free with a pH/EC of 5.2 to 5.5/less than 1.5 (saturated media extract/SME).
Fertilizer: Use 75 to 100 ppm nitrogen (N), increasing to 150 to 200 ppm N as roots develop.
Grow To Finish:
Growing Medium: Well-drained, disease-free with a pH/EC 5.2 to 5.8/0.8 to 1.2
Day/Night Temperature: 55ºF to 70ºF/55ºF to 60ºF
Lighting: 5,000 to 8,000 footcandles
Fertilizer: Constant feed with balanced fertilizer at 200 to 250 ppm N
Pinching & Plant Growth Regulators: Pinch liners at transplant. For hanging baskets, give an additional trim prior to hanging.
Growing cold is an effective natural growth regulator. Chemical growth regulators: 5 to 10 ppm Sumagic or a B-9/Cycocel (2500/750) tank mix; Florel (500 ppm) on larger containers to promote branching.