Succeed With Succulents

Succeed With Succulents

[imageviewer]

Up until recently, succulents were grouped with cacti in niche collections. But unlike their prickly counterparts, succulents have really taken off, capturing a lot of consumer and designer interest. In addition to resembling living sculpture, plants are versatile and easy to use by offering the benefits of low maintenance and low water use.

Succulents are showing up at retail in dish gardens, as showy specimens, living walls, picture frames, topiaries, wreaths and centerpieces for indoor and outdoor use. Garden writers and celebrities are promoting them. Stylish home décor stores like Anthropologie and Crate & Barrel are carrying them as centerpieces. “There are so many textures and colors you don’t see in flowering material,” says Juan St. Amant of Plug Connection in Vista, Calif.

Vista just may be the succulent capital of the world. Major producers include Altman Plants, Plug Connection and EuroAmerican Propagators in nearby Bonsall. Ken and Deena Altman began their journey collecting cacti and succulents 35 years ago. Pretty soon, Ken will be publishing a succulent primer for consumers that’s similar to one he and Deena relied on as teenagers.

“For a niche product line, passion is a very good thing,” Deena says. “The details are so important, what collectors want to see. Just like us, they started with one plant. We are the only wholesale grower with our size and volume who tags genus, species and cultivars instead of selling generic cacti and succulents.”

Altman Plants maintains at least a thousand varieties of succulents on benches and benches of stock plants over 200 acres. Nearly three years ago, the company put in a tissue culture lab to propagate more difficult varieties and slower varieties more rapidly. “It’s something we can’t go to Ball or Express to get,” Deena says. “We have to be able to produce seed. Some varieties take decades to flower and produce seed. We’re taking care of large plants and managing seed. The inventory we have is incredible to deliver size and beauty to the marketplace. Some plants take 18 to 30 months from seed to produce a 2 1/2- or 4-inch pot.”

Altman Plants also has started patenting its breeding in succulents and sells liners under its Succulent Elements program through brokers Messick Co., McHutchison and McGregor Plant Sales. Program tags can be ordered with the plants.

Wholesale finished plants for retailers range in size from 2 ½-inch pots to 36-inch patio boxes, wall baskets, wire baskets and wreaths. A landscape line has been selected for Texas, California and Florida.

Shifting Supply Chains

While most of the production had been self propagation by growers, more offshore cuttings farms have added succulents to their unrooted offerings. Today, growers produce succulents from bought-in cuttings, self propagation, tissue culture and plugs and liners. There are a few varieties from seed, like Benary’s sedum ‘Dragon’s Blood.’

Tissue culture has been reserved for the difficult-to-propagate, showier premium varieties. “Tissue culture varieties are what people are interested in,” says Chris Berg, marketing director of EuroAmerican Propagators. “Yes, sedums and crassulas are easily done and have been around forever, but they are typical and not the most exciting array. Now there are dyckias, agaves and portulacas in really cool colors.”

Plug and liner growers are finding the interest and demand comes in spurts and not all at once like with annuals. Plug Connection produces its Tessera line of succulents in 102 cells for smaller varieties and 72 cells for echeverias. Sampler trays are available in both tray sizes. Growers can purchase off availability or the succulents can be assembled to order.

One Northeastern specialist, Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, Pa., grows larger liner sizes–50 and 72 counts. While larger liners take longer to produce, the turn is quicker for growers who purchase them, finishing a 4-inch pot in six to eight weeks. About 60 percent of the cuttings are bought in and the rest are self propagated. In the future, Peace Tree will be doing more of its own propagation.

“For us, it’s important because there are a lot of succulents being propagated right now,” owner Lloyd Traven says. “When you feel like you’re ahead of the curve and then everybody is doing it, you have to adjust and concentrate on varieties others aren’t carrying.” In addition to the classic succulents, Peace Tree is producing plants in genera you wouldn’t expect to be succulents–peperomias, begonias and tradescantias.

Advice For Northern Growers

If you’re a Northern grower and new to succulents, how should you begin? Plug Connection’s Greg Opgenorth says growers should consider cold hardy lines–sempervivums, sedums and delospermas. “In colder climates, these can be used as perennials, in rock gardens and in xeriscaping,” he says. While they are forgiving, extreme cold is detrimental.

Cast iron plants Traven recommends include crassulas, echeverias, euphorbias, graptoverias, graptopetalums, sedums and sempervivums. Growers who are new to succulents can get started with a few echeverias and a few sedums. “Look for a variety of colors and types,” he says. “Certain echeverias grab attention–fuzzy ones, silver ones, rippled, ruffled. White ones really attract attention. Don’t go for regular green, gray stuff that everyone else has. If all you’re doing is growing those in a 3 ½-inch or 4-inch plastic pot, you’re slugging it out with everyone else.”

For growers who are used to producing petunias, Traven says, “You cannot think in terms of bedding plants and be successful. The soil mix is different. It’s all about water management. If you have a grower whom you consider to be a dry grower, that’s the guy you put in charge. You don’t want a lot of feed or the plants to be soft.” Surprisingly, many succulents don’t want full sun. “That’s where people lose plants–watering them in the height of the day and they end up burning,” he says.

But overwatering is the biggest problem. “It’s so easy to overwater and kill them,” Traven says. “When you take cuttings, let them sit 24 hours. Don’t touch them. Let the ends dry out. Then have trays filled, watered in, stick the cuttings, put the trays through the water tunnels and don’t touch them. When you start to think the plants need water, walk away. Most of the plants, if they are stuck in moist soil, don’t need more moisture to root.”

Altman suggests growers choose tough plants that provide high color and require less light. Blooming varieties will be more difficult to produce in flower up North, she adds. Slower growing plants will finish more uniformly. “California is ideal with its high light and cool nights to bring out the unique colors and shapes,” she says. “You need a house that cools down.”

Chris Berg, marketing director of EuroAmerican Propagators, advises growers to produce the plants outdoors as much as possible. “This is how you’ll get the bright oranges, yellows, reds, purples and variegation,” he says, adding that Northern growers may want to buy in certain varieties finished from growers in Southern climates, because they take too long to produce in the winter.

Growers can make an impact at retail with an assortment of 10 to 15 varieties with cool colors and textures for retail displays. “You don’t have to have 50 varieties to get into the category. If you have 10 really unique things, you’re going to have a lot of success,” Berg says.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Succeed With Succulents

  1. i just got a blue mystic and it is beautiful. it’s sure to be a big hit. i just started with orchids so i’m really excited about this one. keep them coming.

  2. i just got a blue mystic and it is beautiful. it’s sure to be a big hit. i just started with orchids so i’m really excited about this one. keep them coming.

More From Varieties...

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Market

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More
Latest Stories

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]