How to Effectively Grow Staircase Lupine

Green Fuse Lupine Staircase YellowEditor’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 Staircase Lupine series from Green Fuse Botanicals.

The Staircase Lupine series, part of Green Fuse Botanicals’ First Light Perennials collection, received Greenhouse Grower’s Editor’s Choice award in 2016. Lupines in the series will initiate at high temps and do not require vernalization. They are hardy to Zone 4, day length neutral, and have multiple flower sets throughout the season. Propagated through tissue culture, they put on a great display with solid and bicolor hues.

Chris Hansen, Director of Operations at Hampshire Farms in Hampshire, IL, says he did not have a chance to trial Staircase Lupine initially. However, he says he knew if the plants turned out they would be a popular item, so he went straight to a production trial. Due to availability, he was only able to plant in Week 48 of 2016. He says he would have liked to have planted around week 40 to bulk the plants up a little more, but the Week 48 planting worked out.

Hansen planted the lupines at 1 ppp in #2 pots using a perennial-type bark mix with micronutrients and 18-6-12 slow-release fertilizer incorporated. The lupines went directly from planting into the production greenhouse with the heat set at 34°F and cooling set to 45°F. Hansen did not apply plant growth regulators or artificial light, and no major issues with disease arose. Hampshire Farms has a resident population of biocontrols and does weekly releases March through October. No insect problems occurred during production. Irrigation was not crop specific and was applied as needed for the area.

“The short version is that we did nothing special in the way of culture for this crop,” Hansen says. “Ninety-eight percent of what was planted was shipped and consequently sold. And, without any special pushing or holding back, the crop finished for first of May shipping. What’s not to like?”

Production Quick Facts From Green Fuse Botanicals

  • Growing Media: Use a well-drained soil mix, preferably with bark and a pH range of 5.8 to 6.4. Electrical conductivity of 0.08 to 1.25 in a peat/bark mix.
  • Fertilizer: Feed at 75 ppm nitrogen every irrigation or 150 to 200 ppm nitrogen with alternate clear-water irrigation. Growers using controlled-release fertilizers get the best results by incorporating at a rate equivalent to 1 to 1.25 pounds of nitrogen per yard of growing medium.
  • Temperature: Daytime (60°F to 65°F), nighttime (57°F to 62°F); Cooler nights for finishing enhance the quality of plants. Staircase Lupines are cold hardy to Zone 4 and will perform into Zone 8 regions. The series is day length neutral, and lupines in the series do not require vernalization.
  • Pinching: Pinch dominant terminal shoots to develop basal branching and more flower stems. The removal of the dominant shoot will also lower the overall height of the flowering plant.
  • Plant Growth Regulators: To reduce the height of the flower, apply plant growth regulators just as the flower stem begins to elongate above the foliage. Multiple spray applications of 2,500 ppm (B-Nine or Dazide), 3 ppm (Sumagic) at seven-day intervals are effective at controlling plant height.
  • Pests and Disease: Aphids, thrips, or whitefly are the most problematic. Downy and powdery mildew, along with rust are of most concern.

About Hampshire Farms

Hampshire Farms, located 45 miles northwest of Chicago, ships more than 4 million perennials and indoor plants from 20 acres of greenhouses and field production, and caters to the box store market in the Chicago area and Minnesota. The growing operation prides itself on its aggressive biocontrol program, recycling program, quality, variety mix, and constant innovation. Learn more about Hampshire Farms at HampshireFarms.com.

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