Osteospermum Gets A Makeover
Relatively unknown a decade ago, osteospermum has become much more popular with both growers and consumers. At this year’s California Spring Trials many of the top breeders offered new osteospermum varieties, colors and series.
The new Sweet series from Dümmen, for example, offers growers more compact plants and is now available in two more unique colors. Danziger’s Osticade series boasts striking orange and yellow colors, a change from the standard whites, pinks and purples. Fides Oro showed off two new osteo cultivars and added five new colors to the Margarita series and two new colors to the Cape Daisy series. Sakata, Goldsmith Seeds and PanAmerican Seed introduced new cultivars, and Cohen added five colors to its Astra series.
“In the last three seasons, we have seen our sales increases driven by Ball FloraPlant’s Osteospermum ‘Voltage Yellow’ and by the 3D doubles series from Selecta. If you compare the sales today to those of 10 years ago, it has seen a big increase,” says Jim Kennedy, sales manager for Ball FloraPlant and Selecta North America. “Osteospermum is a daisy flower, which consumers are drawn to, and it can be grown cool and shipped early, which growers need.”
Easy-To-Grow Varieties Preferred
Improved growing performance and the genus’ early flowering have also helped to boost osteospermum’s popularity in recent years. Previously known as dimorphotheca, osetospermum now only refers to perennial and sub-shrub forms. Although many cultivars die at first frost, some can survive through the winter with help.
The cool-weather genus requires growers to use a cold treatment to
produce osteospermum. While the process allows growers to save on heating costs, the breeders agree that creating varieties that require less of a cold treatment helped make growing the crop much easier.
Popular Plant Or Fad Flower
Whether the perennial has reached its peak in popularity, however, is up for debate. One problem continues to be the genus’ low heat tolerance.
Kennedy contends that interest in osteospermum will decline unless new genetics are able to produce more heat-tolerant varieties, despite the splashy colors that wow at the retail level.
“A summer like the one we’re wrapping up now is a challenge for osteo. For growers, the challenge is scheduling and space planning. If the osteos end up in a house with New Guinea impatiens, the outcome will be a stretched plant with fewer blooms. If started early, where can they be grown without having to heat more square footage? Perhaps with spring pansies or vernalized perennials,” he says.
Chanochi Zaks, Danziger’s vice president of marketing, agrees. “I believe osteospermum’s popularity will grow if new varieties continue to bloom into the summer season,” Zaks says. “When creating new cultivars, we are looking for unique colors, early flowering, large flowers and tolerance to heat. We’re seeking better tolerance to heat than the plants have today, as well as cultivars that require no cold treatment.”
Dümmen’s Allan Hammer believes the market for this genus has stabilized, but new breeding, introductions and flower forms will continue to create consumer interest in the future.
Osteos Give Consumers Options
Consumers are already interested in the genus. Some have noted osteospermum’s versatility, and a few trends have emerged.
Zak’s says osteospermum has become trendy in hanging baskets and cascading window boxes, and Danziger created the new Osticade series, which is specifically designed for hanging baskets, to fill this need. Dümmen’s Swing series gives consumers another option for their hanging baskets, and Kennedy suggests diascia, Cool Wave pansies and argyanthemum as complimentary plants to fill a combination basket.
Kennedy also says PanAmerican Seed’s Akila series strives to allow for landscape applications in more regions. “The ability to produce from seed coupled with strong, uniform performance in a wide range of weather conditions will expand the market for in-ground use.”
Consumers and growers both have a lot to look forward to though, as breeders have exciting varieties in the pipeline. Dümmen continues to focus on new colors and flower forms, and Danziger is searching for the breakthroughs in the elusive trait of heat-tolerance.
“Watch for new colors and extensions of existing osteospermum series,” Kennedy says. “In addition, Ball FloraPlant’s Genesis direct-stick cuttings for osteo will reduce input costs for growers, shorten their crop time and offer less shrink.”