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...

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attendees With Disney Pixar Movie Theme

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates Horticulture Industry Professionals

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More
Latest Stories
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

March 31, 2015

California Summer Vegetable Trials To Be Hosted By Nati…

Vegetable breeding companies will come together this August to host the Summer Vegetable Trials in California. Like the long-standing California Spring Trials that are held annually in California, attendees will have the opportunity to visit breeding companies' trial sites in seven locations throughout the state, from August 20-21, 2015. National Garden Bureau (NGB), the non-profit organization promoting gardening on behalf of the horticulture industry, is organizing and publicizing this event on behalf of its members.

Read More

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California …

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
2014 Poinsettia Season Report

March 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Seas…

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish. Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Survey received 143 responses from growers around the country. Here, you can download the complete results of the survey, by filling out the form.

Read More
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer BloomStruck' from Bailey Nurseries

March 17, 2015

Michael Dirr Slated To Address Attendees At Hydrangeas …

Dr. Michael Dirr to deliver the keynote address at Hydrangeas 2015 conference, hosted by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society in partnership with Endless Summer Hydrangeas. The conference will take place at the historic Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass.

Read More

March 17, 2015

16 New Blooming Potted Plants You’ll See At The 2…

Blooming potted plants are perfect gift items, and they put the finishing touch on any style of home decor. So when new varieties come on the market, growers and retailers alike take note of plants they know are going to make consumers happy. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new blooming potted plants making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Salvia 'Ember's Wish'

March 11, 2015

Annual Salvias – Not Just Red Bedding Plants Anym…

Salvias are popular — and they need not all be the same. Here are a few you know well, and perhaps a few you do not. All are easy to grow and may be found through a broker or grower.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

March 11, 2015

Memoirs Of A Plantsman: Q & A With Allan Armitage

In light of the upcoming release of Dr. Allan Armitage's memoir, "It’s Not Just About the Hat — The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman," Greenhouse Grower caught up with him for an in-depth Q & A about his newest work and what he’s planning next.

Read More
Lavandula-Superblue

March 10, 2015

How To Determine When To Buy Herbaceous Perennials In V…

Exposing herbaceous perennials to cold temperatures, also known as vernalization, can yield a range of effects, especially on flowering. Beth Engle of SHS Griffin covers whether vernalized liners or unvernalized plants make the best sense for your sales windows.

Read More

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More