In my line of work, sharing information can be hard when I do not know much about a certain topic or if I am not regularly informed. Such is the case when new products and plants hit the shelves for another spring gardening season. I usually discover them once consumers tell me or I see it for myself. So I rarely write about new plants on the market. This spring I have to make an exception because a certain flower recently got my attention.
A few week's ago, I visited a plant nursery and saw inside the store containers and containers of these colorful daisy-like flowers. Wow! I had to read the tag to see what they were. They are called Senetti Pericallis (Pericallis cruenta x P. lanata). The iridescent colors of blue and purple flowers caught my eye; an uncommon flower color in the winter garden.
Senetti® is the trademark for an exciting new collection of plants that came out in 2012 and are made up from Pericallis hybrids (you may know them as forist Cineraria). These particular flowers in the Aster family display 2½ inch to 3 inch flowers, and may reach a final plant height and width of 2 feet. They are advertised as able to cope with temperatures down as low as 30°F and high as 85-90 °F, but prefer night temperatures above freezing. Pericallis hybrids are often used as annuals, bloom best in the winter and spring, and are seen mostly as indoor and patio container plants.
Senetti Pericallis are sold in a variety of colors. Solid color choices are deep blue, blue, magenta, and lavender. The bicolor selections with their white halos in the center are very impressive. You'll find bicolor varieties of blue, magenta, violet, pink, and light blue.
According to Dr. Gary R. Bachman, a Mississippi State University Horticulturist, one of the best attributes of pericallis is their love of early spring's cooler temperatures. They grow and flower when the thermometer is consistently in the 35- to 40-degree range. But you will have to protect them or bring them inside if it gets colder, as these plants are not frost tolerant.
Use Senetti pericallis in spring as you do mums in the fall. They look great alone in a container or even better mixed with other plants in a container. Whichever way you choose, these colorful plants offer the terrific bonus of reblooming all through sping.
Dr. Bachman suggests pruning the plant back by 50 percent when the flowers start to fade. Replant into a larger container that has a good, peat-based potting media with good drainage. A potting media that holds too much water leads to root-rot problems.
Then water and fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer. In three to four weeks, new flowers will start to appear for a second show. The flowers stop once the temperatures are consistently above 85 degrees.
Your watering routine is important to maintain good health for these plants. When temperatures are cool, wait until the potting media feels dry before watering. As temperatures increase, don't let the container dry out completely. Always fertilize with water-soluble formulations.
If you maintain the plants through the summer, you will be rewarded with a burst of fall flowering.
For help on other home and garden questions, contact your local county Extension office.
Shane Harris is the County Extension Coordinator for Tallapoosa County.
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