To Grow Or Not To Grow

Impatiens walleriana

Despite well-documented cases of impatiens downy mildew, impatiens still tops the list of bedding plants in terms of flats sold. Based on the 2011 Floriculture Crops Summary, 8,353,000 flats were sold in the USDA’s 15-state sample. In the potted plants category, impatiens are in fifth place behind vegetative geraniums, pansies, petunias and seed geraniums (in that order). They’re fourth in quantity sold among annual bedding plants in hanging baskets after petunias, vegetative geraniums and New Guinea impatiens.

Impatiens walleriana is clearly still a mainstay crop for many growers. The dilemma that many face is what to do this season. In general, consumers are not very aware of the disease and will still be expecting to purchase impatiens this spring. Many retailers are aware, and some still want to provide what their customers are looking for. Landscapers in affected states will probably stay away from impatiens, since damage is most severe in landscapes. At the top of this chain are growers, who are leery of selling a product to retailers that may develop the disease and produce unhappy customers. And, even if growers do decide to grow impatiens, how many should they produce with the uncertainty in the marketplace?

We went straight to the source, Greenhouse Grower’s Fresh Air Forum, to see what growers were planning to do this year.

Paul Westervelt (Saunders Brothers): We expect to sell many, many less. Our primary sales region (the greater Washington D.C. area) was hit pretty hard this year [2012](spring and fall), so we expect it to be a huge issue for landscapers, retailers and homeowners. We’re struggling now with how many to grow. We think we’ll sell out, but how responsible is it to sell something that is expected to fail? We’re offering alternatives and have a preventative spray program planned for the few we do grow. We’ve also talked with our vendors about their spray programs to make sure our program meshes well with theirs.

Erik Friedli (Flamingo Road Nursery): South Florida was hit last year, and our planting season is just starting again. We are not selling impatiens this year. We’re telling our customers that seeing them available in the box stores and elsewhere is an indication that they are not concerned with their success as gardeners. We are trying to switch customers to alternatives, but it is too soon to say how well we are succeeding.

Pamela Johnson (King Farm Inc.): We haven’t gotten hit hard yet with this problem, but we are cutting back this year by 40 percent and adding torenia to our program, along with more begonias and New Guinea impatiens. This year is going to be tough by far. Where’s that crystal ball?

Michael Pawelek (Farmer and Consultant): I am concerned that the few alternatives will not come close to selling like single impatiens. There are literally whole neighborhoods in the Houston, Texas, area with 100-plus-year-old live oaks shading most yards and esplanades where hundreds of thousands of single impatiens are planted every year.

This is a sad situation. I have been saying for years that breeders need to quit trying to come up with every flower color under the rainbow for every species of plant and instead concentrate on new offerings that were more disease-resistant and required less PGRs at the wholesale level. A good example of a job well done are the newer roses that have been produced in the last 15 years.

Paul Westervelt:
Begonias far outsell impatiens for us, so that’s an easy substitute in our region. Then [there’s] coleus and SunPatiens. We’re also offering other items in smaller numbers (unless customers book them in time to change production) — torenia, porphyracoma, oxalis, caladiums, browallia, ipomoea and anything else I’m confident I can finish.

Does it stink that one of our best selling annuals is being sabotaged by a super- contagious disease? Absolutely. But let’s focus on proactive solutions rather than the sky falling. Let’s get out in front of it so our customers and their customers are informed and have realistic expectations. I think quietly continuing to sell impatiens as if nothing’s wrong is like leading a blindfolded customer to a cliff and hoping they don’t fall off it. GG

Leave a Reply

One comment on “To Grow Or Not To Grow

  1. I recently changed jobs from nursery to landscape maintenance ( man do I miss the nursery!)and found very few nurseries in south Florida growing impatiens, although Home Depot continued to sell them. We put a few regular impatiens in the ground only to have them melt down in a matter of a week, two tops! The trend in south Florida landscapes this year was to plant New Guinea impatiens, wax begonias or geraniums. While this is a shame because impatiens offer such a wide variety of colors as opposed to begonias, it is the perfect opportunity for nurseries to expand their winter annual palette. There are many annuals get passed by because they are "Northern" annuals, but winter in south Florida is a great time for snapdragons, pansies, lobelia and various other annuals that get overlooked. I personally would like to encourage south Florida growers to consider it in the future.

More From Annuals...
2017 North Carolina University Field Trials

January 17, 2018

2017 North Carolina State University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for North Carolina State University/JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Read More

January 16, 2018

Ball Horticultural Company, KeyGene Announce Successful Genome Sequencing of Impatiens

The companies’ breakthrough high-quality genome sequence and assembly of I. walleriana should lead to more efficient breeding and identification of disease resistance markers for important industry solutions.

Read More
Golden-State-Bulb-Begonia-Feature

January 16, 2018

PanAmerican Seed Buys Begonia Product Line From Golden State Bulb Growers

The acquisition of the popular AmeriHybrid and On Top begonia genetics expands PanAmerican Seed’s assortment in this important class.

Read More
Latest Stories

January 4, 2018

Stand-Out New Varieties That Keep D.S. Cole Growers Co…

See what new varieties stood out to Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH, this year.

Read More
Begonias-I’Conia-Series-Dümmen-Orange-Miss-Montreal

December 19, 2017

34 New Flowering Annuals to Brighten Up Your Product Mi…

Consumers will soon have the opportunity to experiment with colorful, big-impact blooms in their containers and landscapes. Here are 31 new introductions to consider that will color-up your product mix.

Read More
Eason-New-Calibrachoa-Hi-Graft

November 14, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Introduces New Decorative…

Created by Hishtil Nursery in Israel, the new decorative forms of calibrachoa feature an 8- to 12-inch stem and come in four colors of calibrachoa blooms on top.

Read More
Helianthus Sunfinity (Syngenta Flowers)

September 3, 2017

Growing Tips for Helianthus Sunflower ‘Sunfinity…

This annual sunflower is a profuse bloomer with strong branching that produces multiple flowers per plant from spring to fall.

Read More

August 29, 2017

27 New Impatiens for Spring Color in 2018

Gardeners love impatiens because they are one of the few plants that offer stand-out, splashy blooms for shady areas, and in some cases full sun. There's no shortage of new introductions this year to choose from for your 2018 product mix. Here are 27 new and improved varieties to consider offering to your customers.  

Read More
Candy Tops Snapdragons Series (Sakata Ornamentals)

August 3, 2017

Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Sp…

New spring annuals have to provide something for everyone — longevity, durability, performance, and more — if they want to meet breeders’ high standards for market-worthy plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Headliner Pink Sky" (Selecta)

August 3, 2017

Why Eccentricity is the New Black in Spring Annuals

Consumers judge plants by appearance, color impact, and ease of maintenance, which is why retailers want new spring annuals that are novel standouts.    

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Mio' (Danziger)

June 8, 2017

AmericanHort Update on Genetically Engineered Petunias

AmericanHort is actively assisting affected plant breeders, distributors, growers, and retailers as the genetically modified petunia regulatory response continues. Since the last update, there have been several changes to the list of petunias confirmed or suspected of being genetically engineered and therefore unauthorized to be imported or sold. Also, the list of recognized laboratories for petunia variety confirmation testing has expanded. Most importantly, petunia varieties on the USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) list require an APHIS Form 2000 for importation. APHIS also began requiring that any Petunia spp. Shipments, not including regulated GE varieties, must be accompanied by a list of variety names. This resulted in some inspection delays at the USDA-APHIS plant inspection station in Atlanta over the past two weeks. In response, AmericanHort has negotiated a more flexible approach with APHIS, and new guidance has just been posted for importing Petunia plants, cuttings, or seed. The new guidance allows […]

Read More

May 25, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Breeders Take Swif…

Now that the initial shock of genetically engineered petunias is wearing off, breeders continue testing for tainted stock and look toward the future. On the consumer side, uncertainties remain.  

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Gen…

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answe…

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Zinnia Solmar Series (Floranova)

March 17, 2017

Phlox, Zinnias, and More for 2018 From California Sprin…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Cosmos ‘Apollo’ (Floranova)

March 14, 2017

Begonias, Dahlias, and More for 2018 from California Sp…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Limbo GP burgundy picotee

March 7, 2017

New Petunias and Calibrachoas for 2018 from California …

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new petunias and calibrachoas that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More

September 6, 2016

10 Colorful Spring Plants For Sales In 2017

Trends with plants come and go, but color always sells. These spring crops for 2017 offer color choices ranging from bold and vibrant hues to understated, softer tones, and they’re versatile enough to be used in baskets, containers, beds, and borders.

Read More