<b>Trees, Ornamental & Bedding Plant:</b> A new spin on a dependable friend

Features - Supplement

Ron Cramer and the breeding team at Sakata Ornamentals have introduced genetics that offer a different take on traditional bedding plants.

October 21, 2010
Sarah Martinez

Other innovative plants

The team at Sakata has also worked to improve other bedding plant favorites: pansies and zinnias. The breeders have focused on creating dependable and drought-tolerant selections. Majestic Giant II pansies, for example, are among the longest lasting cool weather annuals. This series’ unique genetics allows this plant to bloom through winter and into late spring in several parts of the country.

Profusion zinnias offer improvements for a warm-weather staple. Breeders have created a plant that doesn’t require deadheading – a canopy of new flowers rises above spent blooms. Profusion also has strong disease tolerance to Alternaria and powdery mildew, unlike other zinnias.

Landscape annuals, particularly those that end up in public displays, have to stand up to the elements. Breeders are constantly working to develop plants that offer lasting beauty and minimal impact for a contractor’s bottom line.

And, every once in a while, they make a real breakthrough. That’s certainly the case for SunPatiens, a plant that has taken the world by storm. Finally, the look and form of impatiens can be had in sunny locations – something previously unheard of.

European countries have used SunPatiens in large-scale installations for years. But this unique genus is somewhat new to the landscape market here in the states. While gardeners throughout North America are familiar with SunPatiens, landscapers are just now realizing the benefits of this unusual genus. Lawn & Landscape recently spoke with Ron Cramer, global ornamental marketing manager for Sakata Ornamentals, about the advent of SunPatiens.

Q: How are SunPatiens different from other impatiens?
A: It has to do with climate tolerance. SunPatiens can handle a broad range of weather beautifully: From cool temperatures to extreme sun and humidity. That’s why they offer such a winning opportunity for landscaping contractors – they reduce the need for frequent change-outs. SunPatiens will take a cool spring, then the heat and humidity of summer, and will last through several light frosts when cooler temperatures return in autumn. While SunPatiens do tolerate a wide range of temperatures, regular irrigation is needed in the landscape for the plants to look their best. When compared to traditional New Guinea Impatiens a landscaper would need fewer plants due to the size differential between the two – a cost savings in the long run.

Q: How did this genus evolve?
A: The initial introduction of SunPatiens featured only the vigorous series – with each plant having the ability to reach over 4 feet in the landscape. This offered a massive burst of color – but not many home gardens or landscape installations have the room for plants this large. Our initial evaluation did not give us the nice, tidy plants gardeners are looking for. But further testing showed the plant’s ability to tolerate extreme heat, sun and humidity, so we continued to examine its merits.

Back in 2004 we tested SunPatiens at the University of Georgia. The plants survived through the heat, hot sun and not only one, but four hurricanes – including Ivan. The day after each hurricane the plants just stood back up, and then lasted through two or three light frosts. That was when we knew we had a unique plant in our midst.

Q: Where have the plants been trialed?
Probably our most well-known installation is at the Dallas Arboretum. Jimmy Turner, director of research, wrote “SunPatiens not only survived the heat, but they looked good doing it! Last summer was brutal to many plants in our trial garden. Matter of fact, I had a hard time keeping regular impatiens alive in the shade last year, but the SunPatiens just kept on growing and blooming.”