At the 2019 California Spring Trials, Brad Smith, retail category manager at Sakata Seed America, showed attendees SuperCal receiving heavy overhead irrigation in a glass box, and not wearing down. He discussed with Greenhouse Management why SuperCal is a top choice for growers, retailers and consumers.
Greenhouse Management: What is the SuperCal series and what does it offer growers with regard to appearance and performance?
Brad Smith: SuperCal is an interspecific cross between calibrachoa and petunia. It takes what petunia and calibrachoa have that are best, brings that to the market and leaves behind the things that aren’t so great with those different [genera].
From a grower’s perspective, what SuperCal is going to bring to the market is two distinct habits. There’s SuperCal and there’s SuperCal Premium. The SuperCal are more of a multiflora look of a petunia with smaller flowers and it is more semi-trailing. SuperCal Premium is going to be more like your grandiflora petunias with bigger flowers — a little more mounding habit. Those are going to let the grower bring petunias to market at times — not just the peak season when everybody can grow a pretty petunia — but the seasons that are more challenging. For instance, in the summer, when other petunias don’t like the heat, SuperCal still holds up so growers can produce for a late-season crop as well as an early-season crop. They can also go into fall with the SuperCal because you can produce them in the summertime.
From an end-use consumer perspective, it’s all about the performance. SuperCal are going to do fantastic. They’re going to do great once they hit the store. It doesn’t matter if it’s overhead irrigation; it’s high winds; it’s cold; it’s heat. It’s going to look good in the store and, more importantly, it’s going to look good for that homeowner for longer than they expected.
GM: Snowberry White and Lavender Star are new colors in SuperCals introduced at California Spring Trials. What stands out about these colors?
BS: The Snowberry White gives us a great white color that works great in combinations as well as mixes. The Lavender Star is our first true novelty color. It’s an eye-catching color that looks great standalone or in mixes with other plants.
GM: How can growers fit these new varieties in their crop offerings?
BS: I think how SunPatiens has hit the market where there’s not a situation anywhere that New Guinea Impatiens will outperform SunPatiens — sun or shade, spring, summer, fall. I think with SuperCal, it’s the same story. If we offer a color in SuperCal, the grower should use it instead of a petunia because it’s going to perform better for the end user.
GM: Spring Trials attendees also saw a demonstration where SuperCals responded well to heavy water. Can you talk about the performance of SuperCal under these or other difficult conditions?
BS: One of the biggest drawbacks of most petunias is they don’t hold up well in heavy rains or overhead watering. SuperCal isn’t affected by it at all. The blooms stay upright; they’re self-cleaning because the foliage isn’t sticky. Petunias usually have sticky foliage, so when the rains come, the blooms get stuck in the foliage, which leads to Botrytis and makes the plant look all kinds of nasty and mushy. SuperCal won’t do that. It’s self-cleaning and the flowers stay up.
GM: What are some other new advancements in the SuperCal series that growers should be aware of?
BS: We’re continuing to breed in both forms of SuperCal — traditional and the SuperCal Premium — and we have great colors that make for wonderful fall colors as well as spring. So we’ll continue to develop the color line to where, eventually, we can have all the key colors in the spectrum.