Want to Succeed With New Cultivars? Turn to the Breeders

Petunia NightlinerPlant breeders are continually working to improve the growth characteristics of their crops, and petunia is no exception. Petunias account for the most sales of any flower segment with 11% of total sales of flowering plants, according to the 2022 USDA Floriculture Crop Summary.

While already available in a wide selection of colors and patterns, breeders continue to seek new cultivars of petunias that have unusual color patterns or novel colors. Petunia ‘Night Sky’ is a cultivar from Selecta One that was first introduced in 2016 after winning the European FleuroStar Award in Europe in 2015. Since then, Selecta has introduced other speckled petunias in the Sky Series of petunias.

In their greenhouse visits, researchers from Michigan State University continue to see growers producing ‘Night Sky’ and others in the Sky series. Other breeders are introducing white-speckled varieties such as ‘Surprise Sparkle Blue’ from Dummen Orange (new in 2021) and ‘Splash Dance Moonwalk’ from Danziger (new in 2023).

Whenever you’re growing a new cultivar, you should always consult culture guides developed by breeding companies. The guides include recommended environmental and cultural production information such temperatures, light levels, production times and suggested rates of plant growth regulators (PGRs). For example, the coloration pattern of ‘Night Sky’ is sensitive to some PGR applications and growing temperatures.

Some PGR applications might affect pigmentation of the flowers by decreasing the synthesis of anthocyanins in the flowers. The Selecta Culture sheet notes that daminozide (e.g., B-Nine from OHP and Dazide from Fine Americas) applications in the last five weeks of production can cause excessively white flowers. Instead, it recommends a drench application of paclobutrazol (e.g., Bonzi from Syngenta and Piccolo from Fine Americas) at 1.0 to 3.0 ppm to limit stretch without bleaching of the flowers.

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Recent Michigan State University research has determined that PGRs used to promote branching of greenhouse crops also influenced the coloration of Petunia ‘Night Sky.’ In the study, the crop was grown at a day and night temperature of 68°F and plants were very purple. Interestingly, when applied 10 days after transplant as a spray alone or in combination, Configure [6-benzyladenine (6-BA) from Fine Americas], Crest [cytokinin, indole-butyric acid (IBA) and gibberellic acid (GA) from Fine Americas], Collate (ethephon from Fine Americas) and Fresco (GA+6-BA from Fine Americas) increased the white pigmentation of flowers.

Commercial growers are encouraged to refer to the breeder’s culture sheets when growing petunias with novel color patterns for culture recommendations. Doing so will help ensure growers are shipping product with the desired flower color pattern. Growers should also visit plant trials to see how the plants will perform for consumers in their landscapes and might affect their decisions for future years.

Learn more in this post from Michigan State University.

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