13
May
2019

The Curation of Calibrachoas

Calibrachoa Combo
With Calibrachoas, what you leave out is as important as what you keep in

Back in the 90s, the Calibrachoa wasn’t much to talk about but a few decades later it has become a major category in the industry. Big name players field their own teams of singles, doubles, and patterns, and each breeding program has its own particular focus. They work nationally but we, the growers, work locally. For example, Calibrachoas bred for the North don’t require heat tolerance, whereas the Southern ones must tolerate low spring temperatures and wet conditions. Here in Cincinnati, we take a blend of the two—what works for one region doesn’t always work for us here. Still, it’s important to get this plant group right because the people who like Calibrachoas keep coming back for them.

Climate is just one of several hoops a plant needs to jump through—we pick and choose specific cultivars to perform important tasks for our buyers. Calibrachoa has two significant jobs these days: filler in hanging baskets and component for other projects large and small. Not all varieties do this well, so what you don’t grow becomes as important as what you do grow. Once you understand our curation process you will understand how to use our Calibrachoa to achieve your business and creative goals.

CAL Cabaret Deep Yellow
Most of the best solids come from the Cabaret series

SOLID SINGLES

Solid singles form the backbone of our Calibrachoa program. We offer them in three sizes: 4-inch, 8-inch, and hanging baskets, with an occasional cone. This is the best place to start any evaluation because solids explain the core appeal of a plant better than any of the fancies. Simplicity stresses quality and when well grown, a single-color Calibrachoa shows off the best features of the plant itself.

You could say the defining hallmark of Calibrachoa is that classic domed look in baskets or pots. However, we think the most important feature is consistency within the crop and between the crops. Cabarets happen to do this well. They move as a group—we can count on the colors to grow into the same attractive mound, bloom at the same time, and blend seamlessly. This feature becomes crucial the moment we start to mix them.

Here are the solid Calibrachoa varieties we offer:

  • Cabaret Bright Red
  • Aloha Tiki Neon (deep pink)
  • Cabaret Hot Pink
  • Cabaret Light Pink
  • MiniFamous Orange
  • Cabaret Lemon Yellow
  • Cabaret Deep Yellow
  • Cabaret Sky Blue
  • Cabaret Deep Blue
  • Cabaret Midnight Blue
  • Cabaret Purple
  • Cabaret White

As you can see, we sell Cabarets in most but not all colors. To round out the pinks and oranges, we selected ‘Aloha Tiki Neon’ and the lovely ‘MiniFamous Orange’.

CAL Superbells Lemon Slice
Superbells have good fashion sense, like this ‘Lemon Slice’

PATTERNS AND DOUBLES

If solids are the business suits, patterns and doubles are the party dresses of the category. Patterns and doubles anchor Calibrachoa’s reputation as a fashionable plant and, just as they do in the fashion industry, styles come and go. We have also noticed that certain looks are pretty dependable, so we tend to favor them.

Since no one dominates the fashion cultivars we pick out the best of several series to sell as 4-inch components:

PATTERNS

  • Cabaret Purple Heart (dark throat with lavender edges)
  • Can Can Pink Bumble Bee (two-tone pink with a yellow stripe)
  • Can Can Terra Cotta (a speckled orange)
  • Superbells Lemon Slice (white and yellow stripes)
  • Superbells Pomegranate Punch (red with a deep red throat)
  • Superbells Holy Smokes! (pink petals, edged with white, surrounding a yellow throat—it’s really a mix distilled down to a single flower)

DOUBLES

  • MiniFamous Neo Double Deep Yellow
  • MiniFamous Neo Double Blue
  • MiniFamous Neo Double Pink
  • MiniFamous Uno Double PinkTastic

CAL MiniFamous Double Deep Yellow
We pull the best doubles from the MiniFamous series

AS A HANGING BASKET

This is where our mixes take flight, and we enjoy the work. Petunia would be the primary hanging basket competitor but the tiny bellflower and heavy color coverage of Calibrachoa makes it a champion at the craft. Right now we offer a lot of mixes because that is what customers buy—they like the instant splash of multiple colors. A key design point is that a mix doesn’t have to be bright and noisy. Although some designs pop like party confetti, other combos use a more subtle dappling within a single color range.

Super uniformity among Cabarets bears its fruit here. We can work interesting color blends and know they will grow out properly without lumpiness. No exceptions, no alternative rules, no special staff training—once you know Calibrachoa, you can do it. Below are the hanging baskets we blend in-house. Long time buyers will recognize a number of the names below:

  • Blue Bliss (blue and lavender)
  • Blue Flamingo (hot and light pink with a deep blue)
  • Bold Move (strong, bright colors of red, yellow, blue, and orange)
  • Cottage Delight Mix (purple, light pink, hot pink, and lemon)
  • Heat Wave Mix (reds and oranges)
  • Pink Plunge Mix (hot and light pinks)
  • Ruby Sapphire Mix (blues and reds)
  • Sugar Plum Fairy Mix (orange, purple, and yellow)
  • Summer Sky Mix (blue, yellow, and white—our new mix this year)
  • Tahitian Love Mix (deep yellow, deep blue, and hot pink)

CAL Pink Plunge Mix
Pink Plunge Mix is a good example of how we design monochromatic blends

In addition we’ve developed a line of Sunshine Mixes based on a simplified set of bright colors anchored by yellow:

  • Pink Sunshine Mix (pinks and yellows)
  • Purple Sunshine Mix (purples and yellows)
  • Indigo Sunshine Mix (blues and yellows)
  • Cherry Sunshine Mix (oranges, reds, and yellows)
  • Touch of Sunshine (whites and yellows)

CAL MixMasters Tropicali Mix
Among the commercial mixes we like the MixMaster collection the best

We also grow the MixMaster Calibrachoas. Commercially supplied mixes often give us uneven results due to lumpy growth and nonsensical color choices, but this collection is very good.

MixMasters come in the 8-inch pot:

  • MixMasters Laguna Beach Mix (red, orange, and lavender)
  • MixMasters Sundance Mix (hot pink, yellow, and blue)
  • MixMasters Sweet Melody (more subtle mix of light and dark pink with dark blue)
  • MixMasters Tropicali Mix (yellow, orange, and red)

CAL Cabaret White 01
This hanging ball uses ‘Cabaret White’ as its component

AS A COMPONENT

The need for consistency is not just true for hanging baskets. If you plant Calibrachoa into troughs, planters, fiber baskets, or hanging balls—in short, anything interesting or special—you need a Calibrachoa specifically bred to do that kind of work. Cabarets do the job well because the colors move as a team.

Currently the demand for components is a large part of the Calibrachoa market. Our experience in making hanging baskets has helped us develop a quality line of Calibrachoa components as well. We offer nearly all of our varieties in the 4-inch size, which we like as a component size for small and mid-sized finished products. For substantial projects like tubs, troughs, planters, urns, and even bigger we offer a large number of these same cultivars in the 8-inch pot size.

CAL Superbells Holy Smokes
‘Superbells Holy Smokes!’ is a complete mix in a single flower

CALIBRACHOA QUIRKS

A plant wouldn’t be interesting if it didn’t have a unique personality. We can report that Calibrachoa has its quirks. Chief among these is the pH factor, and its signature symptom is yellowing leaves, or chlorosis. This indicates a problem with nutrient uptake. All Calibrachoas are sensitive to higher soil or water pH to some degree. Their roots choke on sweet or alkaline soils, so the plant can’t bring the food (specifically iron) up to the leaves. Some varieties are super-sensitive to pH, whereas the better varieties like Cabaret have a higher tolerance for pH wobbles. As you might expect, we select varieties that are not so fussy.

Truly, this issue isn’t a big deal for the homeowner whose soil is provided in the basket. For commercial installations that require a long lifespan from their Calibrachoa, however, it pays to check out the water pH. Calibrachoa likes it neutral or a touch sour and this is the reason why it is not a big bedding category around here—the soil pH is usually not right.

We should also point out that wild fluctuations in soil moisture wear down the plant. If it gets bone dry, Calibrachoa won’t recover back to its former glory. It will recover, but to a lower level and the same is true for saturated and soggy media—Calibrachoa needs those drainage holes. As with many of the plants we handle, this one likes it straight down the middle so avoid the extremes.

Calibrachoas are moderate feeders—they don’t require heavy doses of food all at once. These plants prefer a steady steam of light lunches and modest dinners, so a slow-release fertilizer is more their speed.

 CAL MiniFamous Orange
‘MiniFamous Orange’ is the best example of the Calibrachoa flounce

THE VERY BEST CALIBRACHOA

Over the decades, we’ve grown out hundreds of different Calibrachoa cultivars. Sometimes people ask us which one is the absolute best cultivar we’ve handled. This is a tie—we would have to give the award to ‘MiniFamous Orange’ and ‘Cabaret Deep Yellow’.

‘MiniFamous Orange’ is the very dream of what a good Calibrachoa should look like—a fluffy cloud of blossoms with just the right flounce to the blooms when they move. Color coverage is excellent, and this particular orange is very difficult to achieve. It is especially beautiful when the backlight catches it.

‘Cabaret Deep Yellow’ is the only cultivar we offer in four different sizes. It anchors the very crucial yellow color for Calibrachoa, and it does so in a very rich and satisfying way. It is the epitome of a Cabaret Calibrachoa.

CAL Cabaret Deep Yellow 01
‘Cabaret Deep Yellow’ anchors the all-important yellow color for Calibrachoa

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