Tropical Plants Mean Bold Color And Big Sales

Sun Parasol mandevillas, Suntory Flowers

Tropicals offer growers and retailers a huge opportunity to extend the spring growing season and sales into summer with bright, bold plants that will keep gardeners coming back for more. Increased breeding in this category, coupled with growing consumer interest, makes tropicals an exciting growth area.

Historically, tropicals have had two major challenges, according to Allan Armitage, horticulture professor at the University of Georgia, who says tropicals for the landscape should instead be called “plants with a tropical look,” so as not to be confused with indoor plants.

“First is cost,” Armitage says. “Plants like taro or ginger are large and not easy to propagate in numbers. They have to be from tissue culture, so preproduction to get to the plug stage is expensive. Second, they require heat to grow, so a greenhouse in Ohio isn’t going to be able to grow them economically for when they’re needed in the spring. Breeders need to work toward developing plants to stand the cooler, northern greenhouse environment.”

While climate poses a problem selling tropicals for spring in the north, the advantage is opportunity for late spring and summer sales, when the garden center is mostly empty, Armitage says.

“There is such a push to produce everything in the spring, but when you go to the garden center in the summer, there’s nothing to see but leftovers,” he says. “These very colorful, bodacious plants can be grown in containers, and by summer they’ll be spectacular.”

More Than Leaves

Containers are just the trend that ForemostCo is aiming for with its efforts in the Thrillers (sanseveria, dracaeana), Fillers (crotons, syngoniums) and Spillers (hedera, Pothos) line, says Randy Natalino, vice president of marketing.

“We need to extend the season; everyone can sell in April and May, but for the economic health of our industry and for interest in our plants, we need summer plants,” Natalino says. “Many types of foliage coming from Central America are well adapted to summertime patio use in the U.S. and Canada. They add lots of color and interest at a relatively low cost. Because they are used in May, June and July, they are doing well in traditionally cooler climates.”

ForemostCo is also promoting semi-tropical products that look tropical but can do moderately well in colder temperatures, including Cordyline australis ‘Red Star.’

Building Flower Power

Also adding more flowers into the mix, Hort Couture will offer a new line of Patio & Garden Orchids, which are durable, can tolerate being mixed with other summer annuals and have summer-long flower power. The brand also continues to see growing demand for its mandevilla Pergola series and hibiscus Ingenue, because as Monroe says, with consumers, it’s all about bold color.

“Tropicals are brilliant colors and bold textures that you just can’t get from other plants,” he says. “The huge leaves of alocasia ‘Elegant Elephant’ or the overpowering color of hibiscus ‘Ingenue Electric Blue’ are irresistible to the consumer. As a centerpiece for a mixed container, they give scale and lushness that the consumer perceives as value.”

Reinventing Genera

What began as a quiet nursery niche ended up an explosion of popularity for Suntory Flowers’ Sun Parasol mandevillas. A new group, Garden, will launch this year.

“In all our breeding, we are going for stable colors, ease of growing and uniform habits and flowering,” says Shigeru Sarada, Suntory’s managing director. “In addition to performing for growers, the plants must provide a lasting value to the end consumer.”

With even better market penetration in Europe as the Sundavilles, Sarada says he feels there is still untapped potential in North America. Thanks to large growers like Costa Farms and major retailers getting behind the Sun Parasol brand, Suntory has created dramatic growth in mandevillas. Additional Sun Parasol branded pots are also coming in 2012.

Suntory’s next goal is to overhaul bougainvillea, Sarada says. This tropical is a favorite with consumers but difficult to manage in the garden or present as a tidy potted plant. Suntory introduced the Sunvilleas last year. They’re miniature plants that bloom immediately, even as liners.

Breakthroughs On The Horizon

PlantHaven is working with breeder John Cho at the University of Hawaii on breakthrough foliage and branching plants that quickly fill a container. According to Fran Setbacken, PlantHaven’s marketing manager, Cho has exciting new varieties of colocasia that will be showcased at the California Spring Trials. Cho is also working on advanced breeding in other tropical plant genera, specifically focusing on disease resistance, invasiveness and plant hardiness.

“The colocasias from the university are very disease resistant, as virus has been largely eliminated,” Setbacken says. “This gives plants their vigor.”

Time For Vines

Even more advancements are coming from Athena Brazil by way of a new line of tropical vines. Forty varieties are enduring testing. Paul Gaydos says between 10 and 15 will likely be introduced at Spring Trials.

Athena Brazil has introduced several new tropical varieties already, the most notable including alamanda ‘Brazilian Red Wine,’ clerodendrum ‘Starshine’ and orthosiphon ‘Lilac Splash.’ Most of its landscape tropicals are part of the Landscape Elite line, which Gaydos says is “the best of the best for landscape items.”

“The biggest issue we face is in shipping,” he says. “Most of these types of plants do not like to be in a box for very long. To overcome this, we started to callus more and more varieties so they ship better and root faster for the growers.”

With its focus heavily set on vines, Gaydos predicts Athena Brazil will continue this line of breeding for years to come.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Tropical Plants Mean Bold Color And Big Sales

More From Varieties...
SunPatiens Sakata Medal of Excellence Feature

June 29, 2016

SunPatiens Earns The 2016 Medal Of Excellence In Marketing Award

With its reputation for excellent garden performance from spring to frost, and as a problem-solver for Impatiens Downy Mildew, SunPatiens has become a “hero plant” that helps gardeners succeed.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

June 28, 2016

Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye This Spring

My reflections on promising new plants, the realities of market penetration, and adding value along the supply chain.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
Latest Stories
SunPatiens Sakata Medal of Excellence Feature

June 29, 2016

SunPatiens Earns The 2016 Medal Of Excellence In Market…

With its reputation for excellent garden performance from spring to frost, and as a problem-solver for Impatiens Downy Mildew, SunPatiens has become a “hero plant” that helps gardeners succeed.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

June 28, 2016

Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye T…

My reflections on promising new plants, the realities of market penetration, and adding value along the supply chain.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
FleuroStar Award Ceremony

June 20, 2016

Begonia Hybrid ‘Miss Malibu’ Takes Home FleuroStar Awar…

The award from Fleuroselect was announced at the Green Inspiration Event in Amsterdam.

Read More
Caryopteris 'Beyond Midnight Bluebeard'

June 20, 2016

Keep The Sales Coming With 16 New Blooming Varieties Fo…

Plants that put on a show from first frost long into fall and offer the color options consumers want for their gardens go a long way toward extending sales further into the season and can help maintain your sales momentum going strong. Check out these 16 new blooming varieties, both traditional favorites and new alternatives, for your fall crop selection.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 18, 2016

Mark Your Calendar For Sakata Seed Trials In August

Sakata has set two dates for its California-based trials: Aug. 15-17 in Salinas, and Aug. 17-19 in Woodland.

Read More
Tomato Congress Logo

June 15, 2016

International Tomato Congress In Mexico Will Focus On G…

The event, which takes place in San Luis Potosi from July 20-22, will feature discussions on production strategies, cost management in protected structures, and optimizing your greenhouse environment.

Read More
Nir Nursery Wax Flower Pot Plant

June 14, 2016

Danziger Reaches Deal To Distribute Nir Nursery Varieti…

With the agreement, Danziger becomes the exclusive distributor of Nir’s product line, which includes cut flowers, foliage, pot, and garden plants.

Read More

June 14, 2016

Dümmen Orange Expands Its Succulent Offerings Through N…

According to Dümmen Operations Director Kate Santos, succulents are an attractive growth category because of their ease of use, shelf life in stores, drought tolerance, and versatility in application.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 14, 2016

New Cool Season, Vegetable, And Foliage Crops For Fall …

Whether you’re providing pansies and violas to the garden center for fall color or decorative edibles to grace patio containers, consider these 16 varieties for fall crop sales, newly introduced for 2016 and hitting retail in 2017.

Read More
Calibrachoa Chameleon Sunshine Berry (Westflowers) - Feature

June 9, 2016

Fall Crop Alternatives That Can Increase Your Sales

There’s a lot of competition for grabbing your share of fall mum sales. Give your program a boost with new varieties that complement traditional fall crops.

Read More

June 7, 2016

It’s Time To Rethink The Value And Timing Of Cali…

Fourteen years ago, Greenhouse Grower saw an opportunity to bring next-day coverage of California Pack Trials (now California Spring Trials or CAST) to your inbox. The objective was to be your eyes and ears on location, to report the debut of the newest varieties and marketing programs, and report major breeder announcements, especially for those not attending. We continued to develop new story-telling tools with video capabilities, slideshows, and more. And once social media took hold, everyone attending CAST became reporters of their favorite varieties and displays at trials. So we’re left with the question — how should we continue to evolve our coverage, to bring the most value for you? It’s easy to fall into a certain pattern, to stick with what works — or seems to work. And just because you’re working really hard at something that you’ve had success with in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s […]

Read More
Carex 'Eversheen' (Hoffman Nursery)

June 7, 2016

Hoffman Nursery Has A New 30-Year Anniversary Look!

The new redesign of the Hoffman Nursery website packs in more content than ever with updated resources and 30 years of experience growing grasses.

Read More
GG June Cover image

June 6, 2016

The State Of Plant Breeding In 2016

Breeding companies look to strengthen their competitive advantage, easing the way for growers to procure new plant varieties and for consumers to grow with confidence.

Read More
Petunia Queen of Hearts

June 1, 2016

Danziger Introducing New Petunia Amore Series, And More…

Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm is planning to introduce 60 new varieties from its 2016-17 collection at the annual event, including petunias, bidens, and calibrachoa.

Read More
Nathan Lamkey Chuck Pavlich Allan Armitage talk about muckgenia

May 31, 2016

Allan Armitage: Three Trends (Good And Bad) That Caught…

We need to put the same energies we invest into California Spring Trials to get plants into consumers’ hands and encourage young people in the industry to attend.

Read More
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover…

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

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