Mark Seguin, Sakata’s global marketing manager for cuttings, explains the benefits of SunPatiens and how they differ from ordinary impatiens. As featured in the January edition of Ornamental Breeder.
Q: What makes Sunpatiens so special?
A: Ultimately it’s the range of environmental conditions they’re able to thrive under. Whether it’s disease pressure, warmer temperatures, full sun or part shade, SunPatiens allow the end user to have more success with less care.
Q: When you say less care, are you referring to water or fertilizer requirements?
A: The water usage is very similar to other annuals, but because they thrive under very warm temperatures, sometimes the market assumes they are drought tolerant. But, that is not the case. Because of their vigorous habit, they still require adequate water. As far as a low-maintenance plant, they are ideal because they are very low feeders and initial application of a slow pre-release fertilizer is often all that’s needed for three seasons of color. They take hold and flower profusely. There is no deadheading required. Maintain adequate moisture levels, and they are going to continuously bloom from spring to fall.
Q: Can you describe what sort of conditions SunPatiens can withstand? What does it mean that they are heat tolerant?
A: Over the years we have seen how well SunPatiens perform under the most stressful summer conditions, particularly in southern Florida and southern Texas. Unlike most annuals, they continuously bloom through the heat and/or humidity of the summer.
Q: One of the primary advantages from a landscaper, grower and retailer perspective is that SunPatiens are resistant to and even unaffected by downy mildew. Did you breed the plant specifically to have that resistance?
A: They weren’t specifically bred for that, but their bloodlines are inherent to being more resistant to disease, including downy mildew, and pests. They have a very aggressive root system. Their stems and their leaves and their flower petals tend to be thicker than traditional impatiens, so I think that plays a role in their strong garden performance and resistance to disease and pests. We find it [the disease and pest resistance] goes beyond downy mildew, but that’s been one that has obviously brought the disease resistance of SunPatiens to a lot of people’s attention.
Q: For growers, what are the ideal growing conditions?
A: It’s important for growers to recognize that SunPatiens are not New Guinea impatiens, and growing protocols often differ from the traditional New Guinea. We have a very detailed culture guide available to growers that gets into specifics. The biggest concern or issue we find with growers producing SunPatiens for the first time is that they are following their standard New Guinea impatiens protocol, and that can lead to less-than-ideal results.
Q: What are they if not traditional New Guinea impatiens?
A: It’s a complex bloodline made up of numerous inter-specific crosses, and development was 10 years in the making.
Q: Tell me about the root system of SunPatiens.
A: SunPatiens offer an aggressive root system that is quick to take hold. And it also tolerates cooler temperatures than New Guinea impatiens. We’re finding growers in northern climates, such as Michigan, New England and Canada, are converting from New Guinea impatiens to SunPatiens due to their superior performance in cooler temperatures.
Q: What are other advantages of SunPatiens?
A: There is a very wide color assortment, and three distinct growing habits or families. We have the compact, the spreading and the vigorous types, each of which is designed to address a specific market need. The vigorous is primarily for massive color displays and strong vigor in the garden. The spreading type is primarily for baskets and quick fill in. They tend to grow wider than they do taller, so they’re ideal for baskets or quick fill in in the landscape. And then the compact is more conducive to small container production, like quart pots for retail presentation and smaller pots at home.
Q: You introduced five new colors for 2014. What’s new for 2015, or what should people look out for?
A: A new introduction launched in 2014, SunPatiens ‘Spreading Shell Pink’ was recently selected as an All America-Selections vegetative award winner. It was one of the first-ever AAS vegetative award winners. (Editor’s note: AAS began trialing vegetatively-propagated varieties earlier in 2014 after more than 80 years of only trialing seed-propagated varieties.)
Q: Are there any colors that seem to be most popular with consumers?
A: Compact Red, Compact White and Compact Electric Orange lead sales, or tend to be consistently the top three sellers.
Q: Any reason why those three may be the most popular?
A: Certainly red and white are very popular colors in the South in the fall. As you go into the Christmas season, there are lots of red and white impatiens sold, so I think that is a leading factor for those two colors. And the Electric Orange is just so vibrant in the landscape. The flowers just explode off of the foliage. It’s very striking in the landscape.
Q: What else do you want retailers, landscapers and growers to know about SunPatiens?
A: I think the tagline that we have for SunPatiens wraps it up or summarizes their performance very well, and that is “Flowers that Flourish - sun or shade, rain or shine, spring through fall.”