Sunday, October 28, 2018

What should we call it?

Peperomia polybotrya
       "If it doesn’t have a name and a use, you will never sell it”

     “Botanical names are mandatory for plant science; Common names are necessary for marketing plants”

            Pilea peperomioides would have not had its success without common names of ‘Chinese Money Plant’ or ‘The Friendship Plant’.  These names are tied to the folklore of this obscure foliage houseplant.

            The next internet wonder after Pilea peperomioides could be Peperomia polybotrya.  Initially, and probably in the future, the two will be confused.  Plant collectors who know both plants, tell me that they like the Peperomia much better.  It is bigger, more upright, less floppy and has shiny leaves.  It is a low light plant, less phototropic (doesn’t grow toward the light), is self-branching and is more durable.

            But what to call it?

            An internet search comes up with ‘Owl’s Eye’ and ‘Raindrop’.

            Each leaf has a round dot with radiating lines out from it.  I liked ‘Owl’s Eye’, at first, because older leaves had distinct radiating lines and I could see the connection to an Owl’s eye.  Younger leaves don’t show this.

            ‘Raindrop’ seems to fit better.  You have the dot which could be where the raindrop hit the concave leaf and the splash radiated out onto the shiny leaf.

            Will the rage be: “Do you have a ‘Raindrop’ plant? --- It’s similar to the ‘Chinese Money Plant’, but better”

Peperomia polybotrya 'Raindrop'

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Houseplant Boom from The Economist.

String of Peas for The Sill

          It’s always interesting to see what outsiders of the plant industry say about us.

I’m copying from The Economist, an international magazine.  The story was pointed out by Chris Beytes, Editor of Grower Talks, the leading horticulture trade magazine.

I’m impressed that we grow 6 of the 8 plants searched for on Google.  Also, I sell to one half of the U.S. businesses mentioned.

--- The closest I’ll come to international notoriety.

People born after 1980 have been slower than previous generations to settle down. Some want to explore the world before they get married and have kids. Others simply cannot afford to buy a house. But they can afford houseplants, and many are finding that nurturing them is a more manageable form of domesticity.

Since the turn of the century, exports of plants from the Netherlands—by far the world’s biggest producer of plant life—have increased from $6bn in 2000 to $9bn in 2016. In that year, Europeans spent some €36bn ($42bn) on houseplants and flowers. And in America, Millennials are thought to account for fully one-third of the houseplant sales. Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, began selling plants last year, and direct-to-consumer start-ups like Patch and The Sill have cropped up, delivering leafy goods in pretty pots to doorsteps everywhere.
To illustrate the piece, they pulled Google search data for eight different plants, showing the increase in search queries between 2010 and 2018.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Groupies are everywhere

Groupies are everywhere.

            You never know when you’ll run into some of your groupies.

            These three young people came to the Delaware Gesneriad Show and Sale in Wilmington.  They had come from Philadelphia to look at interesting plants and buy some.

            When they saw that my plants were there with the recognizable blue tags, they were even more surprised that I was there in person.

            They proceeded to tell me that they have been following my ‘Mini’ plants, looking for varieties they don’t have.  They’ve been to many of my customer’s garden centers and plant shops in and around Philadelphia.

            I guarantee you that these delightful plant collectors are not normal   They knew botanical names and what the hottest trends are with houseplants.  There are few young people as knowledgeable as they are.

            I hope to meet them again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Delaware Gesneriad Society Show and Sale, September 29, 2018

Primulina 'Diane Marie', BIS, 2017

Delaware African Violet and Gesneriad Society (DAVGS) Plant Sale and Show
Where: Delaware Center for Horticulture
: September 29, 2018
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Cost: FREE

Asian Violet Workshop
Where: Delaware Center for Horticulture
When: September 29, 2018
Time: 10 am to 11 am
Cost: $15  DCH Members;   $25 Non-DCH Members
Additional Information/Register
Asian violets, botanically know as primulinas are the newest plant to hit our shores vying for our attention. With their distinctive foliage and ease of growth, they are always a delight to look at and grow, even when not in bloom. These plants, which hail from China and Viet Nam, will be featured in a very special workshop sponsored by the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) and the Delaware African Violet and Gesneriad Society (DAVGS).
This fast-paced one-hour hands-on lecture will provide you with:
·       The cultural information you need to grow these versatile plants in your home – under lights, on the windowsill, and in the warmer weather, outside;
·       Instructions on how and when to pot up primulinas;
·       The hands-on experience of potting up a primulina which you will take home
·       The hands-on experience of propagating a leaf from a primulina which you will also take home
·       The opportunity to ask questions of the session facilitators, who all grow primulinas and have won prizes for them.
Each workshop participant will go home with one primulina and another pot holding their newly propagated leaf.
Best of all, the workshop is being given concurrently with the DAVGS’s Annual Show and Sale. After the workshop you are invited to inspect the show (which is open to the public for free) and purchase more primulinas (and other gesneriads, including African violets) at the sale. 
Both DCH and DAVGS invite you to participate in the workshop, see the show and enjoy the nearby Taste of Trolley Square celebration later that afternoon. We hope to see you at the workshop and/or the show.
About DCH:
About DAVGS:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

String of Hearts

String of Hearts - Ceropegia woodii

String of Hearts

            There is no doubt that String of Hearts should be called String of Hearts.  Every leaf is perfectly shaped like a Valentine heart, attached to a thread-like stem.

            Once rooted, they can trail over the pot by feet.

            Perfect for the interior waterfall look, they are grown in small hanging baskets.

            Start with a full pot and let them grow and flow.

            Look for the green version and get started.  Then you can dream about the pink one.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Strings of Things

String of Peas - Senecio rowleyanus

Strings of Things

            If you want to know what is trending with interior plants, look at Pinterest.  I’ve been doing this despite my aversion to these types of time sinkholes.

            There are pictures of living spaces decorated with oddly shaped trailing houseplants.  It is greenery to give a waterfall look.

            As soon as one catches fire, there is a world-wide shortage of these rarely grown trailers. Although, String of Peas (Senecio rowleyanus) has always been here and is available in the international succulent supply-train.

            Now I see that the urge to collect plants is back, there are many Strings of Things.  If I’m right about demand, production of these trailers is going to be difficult.  First, there is no stock supply.  They grow slowly, and it takes many pieces to fill out a small pot.

            Luckily, many are succulents which make them survive with owners’ erratic watering and low humidity.

            I have String of Bananas, String of Beads, String of Dolphins, String of Hearts, etc.  There are easily a dozen species that could qualify and if we throw in Rhipsalis, a series of 25 is possible ---- the Strings of Things Collection!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

How to decide who gets this rare plant?

String Of Hearts - Pink

The collectors are coming out of the woodwork.  This rare pink form of String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii) is very desirable.  If you really want one, what price will you pay?

The eBay market has some reasonable low prices ($14 - $ 36).  The catch is that nobody has any quantity.  If I ration every customer to 6 pots, I will need 300.

Pink variegated plants grow slowly.  It may take a year to get 300 Pots.

Now who should get them …. And at what price?

When there is short supply, most small businesses take care of their best customers.  Good Will counts.

Less friendly but fair is ‘First come, First served’ at the ‘Fair Market Price’.

How to determine the market price when there are so few available?

The demand for these pretty pink hearts will never be satisfied!

String of Hearts - Ceropegia woodii variegata

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

String of Dolphins... You gotta see this!

String of Dolphins
 String of Dolphins… You gotta see this!

            Plants can be interesting in any number of ways--- color, flowering, variegation, size or shape.

            Common names and novelty help attract casual lookers.  We have String of Peas (Senecio rowleyanus), String of Beads (Senecio herrianus), String of Bananas (Senecio herrianus).

            Now we’ve found the most clever of them all ---String of Dolphins.  By looking at the leaves up close and at the right angle, there is no doubt that this is a Dolphin.  The diving Dolphin has one or two fins on its arching body.

            I don’t understand how this novel plant (Senecio pregrinus) has not been around. It’s not in commercial production and is still only found from eBay collectors at high prices.

            I paid those high prices and am attempting to build stock.  So far, it is easy enough.  Those indoor gardeners lucky enough to find one will have no trouble growing Dolphins at the windowsill.

            Will this be the next internet wonder to sweep through the expanding houseplant craze?

Diving Dolphin's body

Monday, July 30, 2018

International News

         Chris Beytes, Editor of Grower Talks' Acres Online, visited our Penn State Flower Trials at Landisville and talked to the group with his insights on the horticulture industry.  He stopped by my table at the Mini trade show where 15 vendors advertised their plants.  He told me that his wife, who has a horticulture background, had recently discovered the Chinese Money Plant and its high price.  So, Chris has been following this internet phenomenon.

          I am honored that he included my story into his online news and commentary, seen by 23,102 loyal readers around the World.

Chris Beytes...

         "I was impressed to learn that Gary Hunter of Gary's Specialty Plants was moving loads of small foliage plants and hanging baskets to area retailers. He got into houseplants from annuals about 8 years ago and now moves a ton of them. He even had the current "it" plant, Pilea peperomioides, in 2.5-inch pots."

Showing off Chinese Money Plant at Landisville Flower Trials 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

How to create the next Pilea peperomioides?

Pilea peperomioides

           The Chinese Money Plant came out of nowhere.  It is the equivalent of a country song hitting the top ten.    Every song that is produced is expected to be a hit, but no one can predict if a new song will be the most popular.

            A few growers caught on to the wave of demand for Pilea peperomioides.  Were they lucky to grab the limited supply and put effort into keeping the ball rolling?  Well, you can make your own luck.

            The Pilea that looks like a Peperomia is a legitimate easy to grow houseplant.  After the boom, there won’t be a bust.  It will take its place in the assortment of standard houseplants.

            Can a grower create a purposeful viral demand for a new plant?  No.

            Seldom has there been this bottom-up demand for a plant that was not even being produced in the United States.

            So, let’s get serious about creating the next Pilea peperomioides.
            To me, the most logical unknown plant is Peperomia polybotrya, ‘Owl Eye’.  It’s mentioned in the Pilea discussion as similar and is often confused with each other.

            Guess what?  There is no supply.  At least no big numbers that are required to support a new viral demand.

            Peperomia polybotrya is a very attractive foliage houseplant.  It has large shiny oval leaves with a pronounced omphalodium (navel), with radiating lines.  Thus, the appearance of ‘Owl Eyes”.  (No, I never knew the word ‘omphalodium’ or what it means)

            Conventional vegetative propagation could supply local demand, if it exists.  There will be sales by association with the Chinese Money Plant.  There can not be run away sales because there will be no supply.

            Enter tissue culture.  If someone commits time, money and effort into a tissue culture project, then infinite supply is possible.  But if ‘Owl Eye’ never leaves the bottom of the hit charts, it will be folly.


Peperomia polybotrya

Friday, May 25, 2018

I'm World Famous Again!

Buy your ticket now !

          Come to Madcap & Co, Lancaster, PA to learn about new and interesting houseplants.

          Learn more and Buy your ticket here:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

And What Do You Do?

Kevin Cohn

            When we meet someone new and try to get past the awkward dance of what to say, we look for neutral ground.  After a few minutes, it’s usually safe to ask: “And what do you do?”

            When it’s my turn, I’ve always said: “I’m in the greenhouse business, I grow plants for sale.”  The first part has always been misleading because it sounds like I sell greenhouses, so I added the plants.  It’s matter-of-fact and not that interesting.
            I ran into a TED talk that presented that we should start our answer to—what do you do, with “I help….”

            “I help Garden Centers find interesting ‘Mini’ plants.”

            This usually leads to follow up questions like: “How do you do that?” or ‘What kind of plants?”

            If this meeting is with the Garden Center houseplant buyer, I can go deeper.

            I have a collection of foliage houseplants that are not commonly available.  They are selected to be suitable for Miniature Gardens and Terrariums.

            But we know that 90% of ‘Mini’ plants sold are not used in a Miniature Garden or Terrarium.  They are grown as a windowsill plant or moved into a bigger pot as a houseplant ---often put into a decorative container.

            And what do you do?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Let's make a better Lipstick Plant

The Classic Lipstick Plant

     The classic Lipstick Plant that everybody has heard of with lipstick tube red flowers could be better.

         The goal of purposeful plant breeding is to create something new and hopefully better for the World to enjoy.

          I’ve been asked how today’s plants compare with 50-year old varieties.  That’s easy --- the plants are better.  Professional plant breeders have taken road-side weeds and selected them into flowering wonders.

       Amateur plant breeders have created exceptional improvements in the Plant World, also.  These dedicated hobbyists are amateur, but only in that they are not paid.

            All of the Aeschynanthus hybrids have been made by amateurs.

         I have a project for all to consider.  Flowering of A. lobbianus is unreliable.  What if it could be converted to a day-length sensitive plant like A. ‘Big Apple’?

         At least one of the parents of ‘Big Apple’ (micranthus X humilis) must be a long day plant.  We cross these species with lobbianus and select for large tubular red flowers and the seedling that is long-day.

            Is this feasible?  I don’t know yet.

            Perhaps others can speculate?

'Big Apple' is a major new commercial crop

A. 'Big Apple' -Award winner, DAVS, Oct 7, 2017

           Aeschynanthus ‘Big Apple’ has become an overnight success.  They are available in every garden center, every supermarket plant department and every big box store as plant of the week.

            I’ve missed April Fool’s Day, but it could happen.

            With my discovery that this unknown flowering houseplant is a long-day to flower plant, it can be programmed to flower every week of the year – guaranteed.            

Why won’t it happen?  Because nobody will do it.

There are fewer pot plant growers than there used to be and thus fewer specialist liner producers promoting flowering plants like ‘Big Apple’.

There are a few things to test, like post-harvest reliability --- will the flowers hang on in shipping?

            It will be fun to see if I can flower 200 4” pots of this interesting, unknown hybrid, ‘Big Apple’. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why does A. 'Big Apple' Flower?

A. 'Big Apple'  with every shoot budded
A. 'Big Apple' with buds set - April

Why does A. ‘Big Apple’ flower?

Aeschynanthus ‘Big Apple’ is not commonly grown in commercial horticulture.

Strike that --- it’s never seen.

The hybrid ( micranthus x humilis) is very colorful when in flower with red tubular flowers in clusters on an upright plant.  Aeschynanthus is a Genus with many species and hybrids of all sizes and shapes. And we know that flowering is variety specific.

            The one that everyone knows as the Lipstick plant is still sought after with its bright red flowers.

            ‘Big Apple’s flowers are much smaller, but a cluster of them is impressive.

            What makes ‘Big Apple’ flower?

            From our production of ‘Big apple’, I now know the trigger for bud-set and flowering.

            It is a long-day plant.

            We see small buds on every shoot now in April.  So, they were probably starting in March when the day length started to get longer.  We should see open flowers by May and continuous flowering though the Summer.

A day-length sensitive plant has its benefits to a commercial grower.  Vegetative growth and flowering can be programmed --- flowering is not random, it’s predictable.

So here it is.  Propagate in the Fall, pinch and build plant in the Winter.  Get buds in April, flower in May/June----- Guaranteed. 

So, what’s a hobby grower to do?  If it’s a windowsill houseplant, don’t expect flowers in the Winter.  Wait till Spring and Summer.

If you grow under florescent lights, understand that you can manipulate flowering with the number of hours of lights-on.  8-10 hours for growth, then 14-16 hours for setting bud.  I would expect once the buds are set they will open no matter what the day-length is.

A.    ‘Big Apple’ ---- A long-day plant.

Who knew?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

How many customers are enough?

Kevin Cohn

When I started in the greenhouse business and struggled to establish new customers, I was stunned by the sign at Witmer’s Greenhouse -----

            “We are accepting NO new customers”

            It was the boom days in the 70’s and 80’s when plant shops were popping up on every street corner.  Suddenly, houseplants were the ‘In’ thing. Suddenly, everybody was interested in collecting plants.  Suddenly, collectors cared about plant names and what was the newest variety?

            When I questioned the sign, I was told that the owners at Witmer’s decided that it was too important not to take care of their existing customers ---- the ones that bought for years.  They couldn’t jeopardize their loyal customers for the sake of the new upstarts.

            My na├»ve thinking was just grow more plants and satisfy everyone. But, expansion is not a causal undertaking.  What happens when the upstarts disappear?

            And, of course, they did disappear---- after a number of years.  The flash-in the-pan burned out.

            Houseplants are coming back, there is no question.  I get inquires every week for our ‘Mini’ plants.  I’m happy to open new accounts.
            But, what will be the set of circumstances when we ask:

                        “How many customers are enough?”

Monday, March 5, 2018

Chinese Money Plant for Sale...

Chinese Money Plant

          The Chinese Money Plant, Pilea peperomioides, is available for sale at Meadowbrook Farms retail area at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

          This plant is in high demand and elusive.  Don't miss your chance to snag one.

This made my day...

          These nice words came to me from Susan Sturdee______

     "Just wanted to let you know that your plants are fantastic and are making me very happy. I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show and found your plants at the Meadowbrook Farms display and I bought gesneriads and a creeping Peperomia and a few others. Can't say enough of the quality, size and price. I will look forward to finding your plants from now on. Thank you!"

Sunday, February 25, 2018

As seen at Longwood Gardens...

Primulina 'Rachel' in Longwood Gardens conservatory 

  Primulina are invading Longwood Gardens, one at a time.

            This is the first sighting of Primulina ‘Rachel’ on display near the door to the tall foliage house.  Specimen plants show up randomly throughout the conservatory.

            Nice to see that P. ‘Rachel’ is worthy.

            Primulina are often for sale in the Longwood Plant Shop.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Can you tell the difference?

Primulina 'Silver Frosted Jade' - comparison
Top --- 'Silver Frosted Jade'  - Leaf propagations from a silver mutation of yunguensis

Bottom --- yungfuensis - Leaf propagations from the original yungfuensis

          So far, I see no difference?

          Is this a chimera?

Will I have to start studying the botany of chimeras?  And studying the propagation of chimeral plants?

          It's too soon to say.  Hopefully, the top plants will grow out with silver leaves.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I agree with Bill and Melinda Gates, O. T.

Grandma listens

          Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter and it contains a huge slam at President Trump and his policies. Here are some excerpts:
"For decades the United States has been a leader in the fight against disease and poverty abroad. These efforts save lives. They also create U.S. jobs. And they make Americans more secure by making poor countries more stable and stopping disease outbreaks before they become pandemics. The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry [but] President Trump proposed severe cuts to foreign aid."

 "The America First worldview concerns me. It's not that the United States shouldn't look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does. Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment."

"The duties of the president of the United States is to role model American values in the world. I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets. Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country's spirit. The president has a responsibility to set a good example and empower all Americans through his statements and his policies."

          I am an optimist.  Bill and Melinda Gates are optimists.

          Please click on "their annual letter" above to remind yourself that the World can be a better place.  And that America is already a great country.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Worth Repeating

Where do good ideas come from?

Story # 123, O T,
            Where do good ideas come from?

            When a new product or service shows up, the common reaction is one of two things --- A.  Why didn’t I think of that? or  B. I had that idea years ago.

            I’ve said before that there are only two parts to work ---- deciding what to do and doing it.   But what to do?

            SethGodin has the answer to “Where do good ideas come from?”  They come from bad ideas.  Try many things and improve the ones that work.

            JamesAltucher gives out advice freely and you can latch on to anything you like.  One of his recommended tricks is to write down 20 ideas a day ---- Good or bad.  At the end of a year you would have thousands of ideas collected.  Maybe there are some good ones worth trying among them.

            SteveBlank teaches how to run a start-up business.  His simple revelation is that a start-up in not a small version of a big business.  He preaches that you must get out of the building and ask customers about your product to see if it is what they really want.

            Humans are very poor at predicting the future.  That’s why nobody can pick the business ideas that will work.  Apparently, smart venture capitalists bet on losing ideas every day and hope the few winners compensate for the losses.

            The only thing that we know for sure is that ideas are a ‘dime a dozen’ and only execution can prove them right or wrong.

     How can you update this story from 3 years ago?

                    Start small, start now!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Asian Violets have Cool Sophisticated Leaves.

Primulina 'Hisuke' with cool sophisticated leaves.

Marketing for everybody.

         “Asian Violets are like African Violets, but Better”.  I thought that this saying was perfect.  But not so.

         I’ve been working on a marketing workshop with Seth Godin, a Genius logical thinker.  Seth argues that “better” says nothing.  Every product is better, but in fact, consumers don’t all buy your better plants.  They buy what they consider important to them.

         In a discussion group, a woman offered her view:

     Why not just “Asian violets are African violets for sophisticated people”?

     You may be onto something by thinking about marketing to people with a more sophisticated sense of aesthetics. I imagine walking into a friend’s apartment, rolling my eyes at her African violets, and thinking,      “You’re smarter than that, dammit!”

            I told her that I laughed out loud.  Since I have friends that grow African Violets, I hadn’t considered that African Violets are not up with the times.

         I think that Asian Violets (Primulina) have a more sophisticated look and that may be the distinction to separate them from African Violets.  Violets are the leading flowering houseplant in the World.  That is not likely to change any time soon.

         “Asian Violets are like African Violets, but with cool sophisticated leaves.”