Geranium ‘Super Moon Red’

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The new muscle car among Geraniums—‘Super Moon Red’

In the world of Geraniums the zonals are muscle cars—they are the BIG ones: big blossoms, big stance, big leaves, and big attitude—right down to that signature zonal brand mark they flash on the fenders of the plants. There is a reason why Geraniums are divided into zonal and non-zonal—it’s the difference between zoom and vrooom.

Currently the field is dominated by classic names like Rocky Mountain and Fantasia and sports names like Calliope and Caliente, but there is a new ride in town: Geranium ‘Super Moon Red’. This is a large red Geranium with subtle chocolate highlights, developed by the folks at Selecta One. You probably haven’t walked past it yet because this Geranium is brand new to the market. It’s so new that the market is still trying to decipher the plant.

We’ve actually taken 'Super Moon Red' out for an extended test drive, so we can say this one pulls ahead of the competition. We can tell you three reasons why this cultivar is important to you. Let’s break out our tools and take a look at the ride Selecta brings to the muscle car geraniums.

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Grown last summer with hot night: 'Calliope' on the left and 'Super Moon Red' on the right

Managing a Hot Engine

First, ‘Super Moon Red’ is a full-blooded V8 zonal Geranium, built on a Fantasia chassis. It has all the checkmarks you’d expect from its class: big ball-shaped blooms, strong stems to hold them, big fan-shaped leaves, and a bushy habit. However, ‘Super Moon Red’ breaks from the pack when it comes to heat performance.

It is a phrase among motorheads that the size of the engine is controlled by the size of the radiator. In other words, heat throttles performance; and the same is true for all zonals. Blooming will stall out in hot weather. A single hot night doesn't make a difference, but when the temperature creeps up past 70 degrees in the night, and parks itself there, the plant starts to shut down to protect itself. Blooming stops.

If the heat doesn't quit, you start to see tissue damage. This is because the nutrient pump doesn't function well when it overheats, so the chlorophyll starves out. The geranium can't stop the leave tips from growing, but now the tissues have no green fuel in their tanks and the leaf edges begin to bleach out.

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The chocolate topcoat on stems and leaves staves off heat and darkens the foliage

Different cultivars quit at different temperatures. The prior champion was 'Calliope' from Syngenta, which rocked the world of the geranium breeders when it debut. Calliope shows the color performance under hot conditions was possible, and it changed the geranium game. The engineering trick 'Calliope' played was to pull genes in from other species, which makes it a hybrid (or intergeneric) geranium. It delivered on heat performance, but it wasn't a pure muscle car either because of the baggage carried in with those new genes.

Now Selecta has released their hot contender in the zonal category: 'Super Moon Red'. However, their breeding engineers tackled the heat problem using a pure zonal play. Rather than pulling in genes from the outside, they realized that zonals already had heat management buried deep inside. Starting with Fantasia parents, they focused on sorting and organizing the zonal genes until they lined up the heat performance they wanted to see. They also kept, and in some ways, amplified all the big, bad, bold, beautiful traits inherit to the zonals. Nothing is watered down on this platform.

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Notice the tall, high stance of these blooms. V-branching is the reason

Delivering That Muscle Car Stance

You can argue whether straight-8's are better than the V8's, but we are squarely with the V-shape. This is the second innovation Super Moon Red brings to the market. It delivers a much better branching angle for the geranium. This difference means a much meaner stance just sitting by the curb. To illustrate our point, imagine holding your arms straight out with pompoms in your hands—that is the traditional pose for zonal Geraniums.

Now, picture lifting your arms up by 45 degrees—your branch angle is higher. This V-shaped angle delivers more color performance by lifting it above the foliage where it is highly visible at both low and high speeds; the stance is also more rakish. Attitude is part of the mystic in zonal Geraniums. Striking that pose is part of what makes the whole package go fast, even when the plant is parked by the curb.

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In full sun the leaves darken with a very light silver top coat on the leaves

A Better and More Subtle Paint Job

The third reason is the chocolate hint in the stems and leaves. Not only does it block heat coming into the plant, it infuses a bronze cast into the plant, from leaves to stems. This chocolate is not a true brown, but a blend of green and red pigments that scatters the light differently and creates a ruddy glow when the sun strikes it in mid-morning or late afternoon. In other light, the leaves cast off a silvery sheen. Cars are painted with the same technique, layering different colors to create a more sophisticated paint job that changes with light angles.

In fact, the name ‘Super Moon Red’ is a nod to its unique color. Selecta chose it during a photo session as the result of an off-hand comment from the staff. They said the color was like the lunar red glow of the recent Super Blood Wolf Moon. That description nailed it—so the name stuck.

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With shade the green is expressed, but the signature zonal brand mark stays dark

Showroom Appeal

Pulling all these features together means that ‘Super Moon Red’ has a showroom look that it can call its own. This came as a surprise to folks involved because it became apparent late in development when the plant was nearly ready for market. Although Selecta bred it for landscape work, nearly everyone—from the photographers, to the breeders, to the product managers and office staff—commented on how good it looked parked on the studio floor. Looking good while standing still is a major vibe for muscle cars, and the same is true for a Geranium in pottery. Both industries call it curb appeal.

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A single specimen with color held high and zonal highlights visible

A New Mark from a Respected Brand

Names mean something if they are handled well by their owners. We hope that same zonal spirit appears again from Selecta in other colors, because the market needs that big, in-your-face zonal attitude. We think that zonals should not be a retro fad. To stay significant, it should be a future look with all the modern improvements we expect from other classes of landscape material. Only sustained breeding attention delivers that promise.

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Color is up and the foliage is down as we cruise the hot streets of the summer. Geranium ‘Super Moon Red’ drives into the market as a classic, full-throated V8 zonal geranium, but it handles both heat and attitude differently than its competition. Designed to bloom long and reliably in hot summers, it has a stance that looks good whether sitting still in a container or viewed at 50mph in a mass planting. However, will it keep the crown it earned?

That's a good question. We are now in a midst of serious zonal competition among the industry majors. Each one wants to leapfrog the other, and Selecta does not discount their competition. Syngenta doesn't sit still, and we've heard rumblings from the giant that is BallFlora. To this challenge, Selecta shrugs its shoulders.  "We can only beat our competition by beating ourselves," said one spokesperson, "Stay tuned."

Races don't get better than this.

Geranium ‘Super Moon Red’ is available in the #1 pot.

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