Annual pick of the month
By Robin Trott - U of M Extension Educator
Life never slows down on the flower farm. Every year we start about 65,000 plants from seed, and those that take the longest (lisianthus and trachelium) were planted last weekend.
Eustoma grandiflorum (lisianthus) is one of my favorite annuals and can take 20-26 weeks to start from seed. The seed has specific heat and light requirements, which has made them a challenge to grow. The end product is definitely worth the time and effort.
I first became acquainted with this lovely flower from ads promoting the “Blue Rose.”
Lissies are multi-petaled, cup shaped flowers that truly resemble roses (without the thorns). They range from 1-3 feet tall, spread about 1 foot, and come in many colors.
Our first stems have as many as 12 buds and last at least 14 days in a vase. The subsequent re-growth has fewer buds per stem, but is vigorous until the first frost.
We plant our first lissies in our high tunnels in mid-May, and have our first cuts by July. My favorites this year were a soft yellow (ABC 1-3 Yellow) and a blush champagne (Echo Champagne).
Look for lisianthus in your favorite seed catalog to get the best color variety. The seeds are tiny, so go with the pelleted varieties. If you are not eager to try starting them from seed, look for them at your local garden centers.
For more information about lisianthus, visit pubs.ext.vt.edu/
2906/2906-1312/2906-1312.html, www.hort.cornell.edu/hightunnel/crops/flowers/lisianthus.htm or www.gardengatemagazine.
The other, lesser known seed we started this week was Trachelium caeruleum (blue throatwort).
Like lisianthus, trachelium has very small seeds that need to be pelleted to be visible. Growing three feet tall, trachelium has dome shaped flower heads crowded with tiny, tubular amethyst flowers (similar to Joe Pye or Heliotrope).
These plants are butterfly magnets with showy flowers and foliage. Seed germination takes about two weeks, and plants are ready to be transplanted
at 10-12 weeks.
The initial seedlings are tiny, although the roots grow long and are vigorous long before the plants begin to grow.
For more information about trachelium, visit www.hort.cornell.
Good luck on all your seed starting endeavors.
Until next time, happy gardening!