Calibrachoa is largely viewed as a commodity crop among buyers today, and the breeders have done a remarkable job of setting that expectation. It’s tough to pick out the differences; they offer an array of colors, varieties and series, and the plants themselves are considered strong performers.
So, if you are a breeder with a large stake in Calibrachoas—say, Proven Winners or Ball Horticultural—where do you go from here? What should the next Superbells be? What will next year’s Mini Famous be like?
In essence: are Calibrachoas good enough?
For Proven Winners, the answer appears to be “Yes.” The Superbells series presents well on a retail bench, so their breeding has focused on new types of colors and designs, with fancier bi-colors and unusual markings. Proven Winners sees the future of Calibrachoas as driven by fashion, so they have been releasing wilder and funkier cultivars over the past few years.
At Ball, their answer seems to be “No.” Year after year they continue to release improved versions of the mainstream Mini Famous colors—no fancy stuff here. Their Calibrachoas also look great on the bench, but the real improvement lies in after-sales performance.
You see, Calibrachoas are a bit twitchy by nature. If a plant is set in soil with the wrong pH value, it will struggle to take up iron; the leaves will turn yellow and the plant will lose its aesthetic value. Wholesale growers fix this problem by adjusting the pH of the water and soil so the plants will grow well and look beautiful on the bench.
Such careful management doesn’t help retail centers or the homeowner. As soon as a plant is washed with standard tap water the soil pH will change; the plant will once again struggle with iron, the leaves will turn yellow and a shabby appearance will return.
Ball invested in their core series of Calibrachoas by improving the plants’ ability to grow and thrive in a wide range of soil pH values. This means they will generally perform better, regardless of the pH in the local tap water. This enhancement not only allows the Mini Famous to last longer on the retail bench—it makes them easier for the homeowner to care for as well.
We talk a great deal about performance at Diefenbacher, and the breeding strategy of each of these Calibrachoa suppliers illustrates what we mean: we believe we should grow plants that are significantly better than what the market typically provides—with a difference you can easily see or explain.
Since we like the novelty colors of the Superbells, we grow them. We like the better plant performance of the Mini Famous even more, so we have ramped up our commitment to that series—it represents the best of what a great Calibrachoa basket can be.This difference in performance is especially important for retail garden centers, which are expected to provide higher quality plants than chain stores. The chain stores will own the market if that higher quality stops the moment a plant leaves the parking lot; a garden center thrives when it becomes the neighborhood expert and the source for all the best plant material in the area.