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...
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 25, 2017

Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornamental Grass Market

Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trials 2017: Northern Sites

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
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begonia Varieties

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More
Latest Stories
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 25, 2017

Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornam…

Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.

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
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Florida Flower Trials

April 12, 2017

Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…

The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.

Read More
Lupinus Staircase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

April 11, 2017

Begonias, Celosias Among Dr. Allan Armitage’s Favorites…

Check out some of Allan’s top picks from his final day at CAST 2017, which included visits to Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova.

Read More
Rex Begonia container mix at Green Fuse Botanicals

April 11, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals’ Rex Begonias and First Looks; Fl…

Here are the highlights from Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova on the last day of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

Hort Couture Wows With Farm to Table; Florist Holland R…

On the last day for GroLink and the second to last for the Greenhouse Grower team, the wealth of genetics, marketing programs, and announcements were pleasing to our eyes, ears, and hearts.

Read More

April 7, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Five: Notable New Plant Va…

See some of the new varieties for 2018 displayed at Ball Horticultural and GroLink Plant Company on day five of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

PanAmerican Promotes Pentas, Plug-and-Play, and Veggies…

On Day 5 of the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team hit the Southern California Trials and saw a multitude of new introductions and exciting programs.

Read More

April 7, 2017

CAST 2017: Musings of a California Spring Trials Rookie…

The number of opportunities presented to me are enough to make me rethink my location, but I still have a lot of big decisions to make for the future.

Read More

April 6, 2017

Dr. Allan Armitage’s Top Picks From Ball and GroL…

Here are Dr. Allan Armitage’s five variety picks, plus one display, from on Day 5 of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 6, 2017

Dümmen Orange Provides Retail Concepts; Terra Nova Offe…

Greenhouse Grower hit the Central Coast of California on our Day 4 of California Spring Trials, and what we saw was inspiring and exciting.

Read More

April 5, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Four: New Plant Intros fro…

The Greenhouse Grower team saw loads of memorable plants during day four, as it visited Dümmen Orange, Chisan Orchids, and Windmill Nursery. Dümmen had several notable introductions, including Wild Romance New Guinea impatiens in Blush Pink and White, which inspired the theme of its displays. One of the standout displays was its perennial combos with some new leucanthemum additions. Chisan Orchids in Los Alamos, CA, with Israeli breeders Hishtil, Jaldety, and Cohen Propagators, was a new stop on the route this year. Hishtil has a new gaura series out that includes a compact, low-growing variety, ‘Baby,’ with a mass of pink blooms. Cohen displayed Verbena ‘Mickey Red Rose,’ a unique bi-color that looks like a mixed combo, and Jaldety featured an interesting Cyperus prolifera. Windmill Nursery was the last stop of the day, with breeders Terra Nova Nurseries, Kientzler, J. Berry Nursery, and KiwiFlora. Terra Nova had several new heuchera for show, including ‘Onyx,’ which is a mounding, […]

Read More

April 5, 2017

CAST 2017: Musings of a California Spring Trials Rookie…

Set-aside all the varieties - I have come to the realization that being a grower is where I belong.

Read More

April 5, 2017

Dr. A’s Day Four Top Varieties for CAST 2017

Check out Dr. Allan Armitage's top five picks from visits to Dummen Orange, Chisan Orchids, and Windmill Nursery during day four of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 4, 2017

Dr. A’s Day Three Picks for CAST 2017

Take a look at Dr. Allan Armitage’s top five favorites from the American Takii, Sakata, and Floricultura stops during the 2017 California Spring Trials.

Read More