Index | Search | Home | Table of Contents

Ewart, L.C. 1993. New bedding plants. p. 604-608. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.

New Bedding Plants

Lowell C. Ewart

    1. Begonia
    2. Canna
    3. Catharanthus
    4. Craspedia
    5. Gomphrena
    6. Hosta
    7. Iris
    8. Kalanchoe
    9. Rhodohypoxis
    10. Salvia
    11. Steirodiscus
    12. Trillium
    13. Viola
    14. Zinnia
  4. Table 1
  5. Fig. 1
  6. Fig. 2
  7. Fig. 3
  8. Fig. 4
  9. Fig. 5
  10. Fig. 6

New floricultural crops have been defined by Roh and Lawson (1990) as "a newly discovered genera or species; newly introduced cultivars of plants grown in earlier years, but forgotten or without complete cultural information; plants that are cultivated in foreign countries but have not been introduced in the United States; or crops that can be produced with new production technologies that can enhance crop quality and shorten the total production time." If this classification is followed, new bedding plants fit the definition of new crops very well.

There has been a renewed interest to bring new bedding crops to market in the last five years. The trend is to introduce new perennial, bulb, and wildflower plants in addition to annuals for the bedding plant and landscape industries. This trend will likely continue well into the next century, especially with bedding plants and garden plants leading all other floriculture crops with a wholesale value of $971 million in 1990 (Agr. Stat. Board 1991). This represents an 8% gain over 1989, and reflects a yearly increase that has remained unbroken for over 10 years.


The following taxa selections are either under evaluation or have recently been released for bedding plant sales. Additional new bedding plants are listed in Table 1.


Begonia MSB-1 is a hybrid derived from inbreds developed from crossing Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum Hort. with Begonia schmidtiana Regel. The purpose was to develop material suitable for hanging basket production from seed rather than from cuttings. The plants grow fast, have a nice spreading, branched habit, and the flower color is a bright red. Evaluations have been excellent.


Canna x 'Tropical Rose' is an All-America Selections Flower Award Winner for 1992, the first canna ever to receive this award. 'Tropical Rose' is an improved dwarf canna that can be sold as young potted plants from seed sown 6 to 8 weeks prior to selling and which reaches heights of 76 cm (Sutherland 1991). Usually, cannas are grown from rhizomes rather than from seed. The soft rose-colored blooms appear the first of July and continue the rest of the summer in the Midwest.


Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don still commonly known as vinca, has had several new additions due, in great part, to the work of R.D. Parker of the University of Connecticut. The cultivars 'Parasol' and 'Pretty In Rose' are both 1991 All-America Selections Bedding Plant Award Winners, and 'Pretty in White' is a 1992 All-American Selections Award Winner in this category.

'Parasol' improves on the cultivar 'Little Bright Eye' for flower size and flower quality. The large 4 to 5 cm blooms are pure white with a red center. The blooms have overlapping petals creating a full round flower. 'Parasol' exhibits heat and drought tolerance, and is an excellent landscape subject.

'Pretty in Rose' is a new deep rose, almost purple, color now available for the first time in vinca; whereas, 'Pretty in White' is a beautiful white with a small cream-colored eye. Both of these cultivars bloom all summer long and perform best in full sun. In combination with other annuals, they are perfectly suited to hanging baskets, planters, or patio urns.

These cultivars were derived from species and escaped 'wild' accessions (R.D. Parker pers. commun.). The collection, which began in 1978, contains material principally from Madagascar and Mauritius, but also contains material collected in Brazil, India, Mexico, Portugal, and South Africa.


Craspedia x 'Drumstick' is new to horticultural cultivation. This native from Australia is easily grown from seed. It is a green pack item and blooms approximately 170 days from seeding. The 3 cm globular flowering heads of golden yellow are held atop long, wiry stems about 60 cm tall. The excellent cutting stems rise from compact rosettes of ground level foliage. The flowers have very good durability either fresh or dried.


Gomphrena x 'Strawberry Field' is the first true strawberry-red red gomphrena and is a beautiful, continuous blooming annual. The 3.5 cm blooms are borne in profusion on 60 cm stems, and they are delightful in bouquets either fresh or dried. It is a green pack item and starts to bloom approximately 90 days from seeding and will bloom all summer.


Hosta selection MSH-1 (Fig. 1) was found growing among what appeared to be a variable group of seedlings in an old abandoned garden. The plants are very dwarf, early flowering with 26 cm flower stalks with light purple flowers. The plant silhouette is on the order of Hosta lancifolia Engl., but much smaller. The plants, in regular perennial fashion, bloom the second year from seed in early June in the Midwest and are excellent as a rock garden subject.


Dwarf bearded iris (Iris pumila L.) (Fig. 2) are beautiful in the spring and are usually purchased as rhizomes in late summer. They can now be produced as a spring sales, pot plant item (E.J. Holcomb pers. commun.) by storing potted rhizomes at 7°C for 8 weeks. There are many cultivars with various colors that bloom in about 25 days after storage and produce more flowering stalks per pot if the plants are grown under high pressure sodium lighting. These dwarf iris are excellent for rock garden or edging use, blooming in late April to early May. They are best grown in full sun in a well drained location.


Kalanchoe MSK-20, a selection developed for hanging basket production, was derived from crossing Kalanchoe x 'Jingle Bells' with Kalanchoe manginii Hamet. & Perr. B, and can be produced from cuttings or from seed. The plants need 5 weeks of short days to induce flowering. The critical photoperiod is 12 h, but the optimum is 9 h. The habit of the plant is more like K. Manginii, only larger. The 2.5 cm long, trumpet shaped, red flowers are borne in profusion on the ends of the branches. The natural flowering time is December through March in the United States.

Kalanchoe MSK-1 (Fig. 3), 2, and 4, selections from crosses within Kalanchoe blossfeldiana Poelln., are produced from seed and are intended for mass market sales. The plants require short days for flower induction. The colors of MSK-1, 2, and 4 are orange scarlet, hot pink, and apricot-yellow, respectively. The individual flowers have a spread of 17 mm, and the natural flowering time is December through April in the United States.


Rhodohypoxis bourii (Bak.) Nel., known as the Starlet Flower, is native to South Africa and hardy only into zone 8. Grown from rhizomes, it has been used as a rock garden plant. It is suitable as an attractive spring pot plant, ready for sale 5 to 6 weeks from potting. The flower colors range from white, pale pink to red, and the flowers, each comprising 6 petals, meet at the center with no eye. The slender stems produce a succession of 2 cm flowers. The plants can be enjoyed as a patio subject or planted out in the garden, but should be removed before freezing temperatures are experienced. The rhizomes can reflower after 8 to 10 weeks of storage at 4°C (Bay City Flower Co. pers. commun.). Production of this crop is still somewhat hampered by the limited number of rhizomes available each year.


'Lady in Red' salvia, an All-America Selections Flower Award Winner for 1992, is derived from Salvia coccinea Juss. ex J. Murr., sometimes called Texas sage. The bright red flowers, which attract humming birds and butterflies, are borne in loose whorls along a spike above the foliage. Mature plant height is 60 cm. 'Lady in Red' can be produced as a flowering bedding plant, using the same culture as for Salvia splendens F. Sellow ex Roem. & Schult (Sutherland 1991). Crop time from sowing to initial bloom is about 10 to 12 weeks, and the plants will flower all summer long.


Steirodiscus x 'Gold Rush' has a beautiful yellow, daisy-like flower about 2.5 cm in diameter. In full bloom, the flowers cover the entire plant which grows to 12 to 18 cm in height (Hamrick 1989). It is produced from seed and will grow well at 15° to 21°C. The plants, however, require a cool night temperature of 2° to 5°C and 15°C days to flower. Temperatures over 26°C will result in poor growth and shorten the bloom period. In general, the crop time is 12 weeks (American Takii Inc. pers. commun.).


A double flowered form of Trillium grandiflorum (Michx.) Salisb. ('Flore Pleno') (Fig. 4) is quite rare as a commercial item. The single flowered type at one time was forced as a pot plant, but went out of style. Now, with the renewed interest in wildflowers in the landscape, such items have become popular again. The plants, however, are now protected in some states and cannot be dug from the wild. The double flowering form can be propagated vegetatively, but at a premium price. Potted up during the summer previous to spring sales and stored overwinter, this plant sells itself when in bloom at a garden center outlet. The double flowers have a good 2 to 3 weeks duration time which adds to their value for spring sales. The plants can be enjoyed best, however, if planted as soon as possible into the landscape.


Violet MSV-1 (Fig. 5) is of hybrid derivation from within the wild Viola stemless, blue, cut-leaved group. In the spring, the plants are covered with blue flowers that are held above the foliage forming a beautiful blue carpet. Propagation is by seed or division. Violets are photoperiodic (Mastalerz 1977), producing conspicuous clasmogamous flowers under short day, and inconspicuous clestogamous flowers under long day conditions. It should be possible to keep the plants flowering year-round by manipulating photoperiod and temperature. This should allow sales of flowering plants for landscape use from spring through most of the summer.


The most economic important garden zinnia (Zinnia elegans Jacq.) is very susceptible to several leaf diseases. Zinnia angustifolia HBK, however, is virtually disease free. Until now only the orange flowered cultivar 'Classic' was available. A new white flowered cultivar 'Star White' (Fig. 6) has been introduced. The single, daisy-like flowers measure about 2.5 cm and appear in mass on plants reaching 35 cm. The plants thrive in hot, dry conditions and carry the same disease resistance found in Z. angustifolia (Burpee pers. commun.). The plants bloom all summer and are propagated from seed.


The plants highlighted represent an interesting and colorful group of new plants that should find a home in the garden for years to come. They are an example of what new crops can do for increasing the interest of color and diversity in the landscape.


Table 1. Examples of other new cultivars and species that show potential for bedding plant sales.

Taxa Comments
Calandrinia x 'Bogota' Very dwarf, heat tolerant, violet rose color
Centaurea x 'Blue Midget' Dwarf, free flowering
Gaillardia x 'Red Plume' Dwarf, heat tolerant, excellent flower production
Gaillardia x 'Yellow Sun' Dwarf, heat tolerant
Impatiens x 'Spectra' Dwarf New Guinea-type from seed
Lisianthus x 'Blue Lisa' Dwarf, deep blue
Nasturtium x 'Tip Top' Dwarf, in single colors or as a mix
Sanvitalia x 'Double Sprite Yellow' Double flowers, heat tolerant
Claytonia verginica L. Wildflower
Dicentra Cucullaria (L.) Bernh. Wildflower
Lychnis x 'Molten Lava' Dwarf, deep red
Platycodon x 'Sentimental Blue' Dwarf, large flowered

Fig. 1. Three-year-old plant of hosta selection MSH-1 in bloom. Fig. 2. May flowering selection of Iris pumila.

Fig. 3. Kalanchoe selection MSK-1 in bloom from seed Fig. 4. Double flowering form of Trillium grandiflorum.

Fig. 5. Violet selection MSV-1 in bloom in early May. Fig. 6. Zinnia angustifolia cultivar 'White Star' in full bloom.

Last update September 17, 1997 aw