Monday, September 1, 2014

Will Primulina 'Loki' break the commercial barrier?

Primulina 'Loki' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants

Story # 132,

            Primulinas, formerly named Chiritas, have never been a commercial crop.  Growers who may be familiar with these Gesneriads, native to China and North Vietnam, soon eliminate them as a flowering houseplant when it’s learned that it may take a year or more to flower.

            My friend, Quentin Schlieder, has been trying to get me to see the value in Primulina.  I’m starting to come around.  The variegated forms are interesting as foliage plants.  I’ve propagated P. vericunda, P. ‘Betty’ and P. ‘Loki’ and easily sold the few that I’ve had in 2 ½” ‘Mini’ pots.  They are young variegated plantlets that are attractive as little rosettes---- no flowers required.

            Primulina ‘Loki’ is a hybrid by Peter Shalit, past President of the Gesneriad Society and a hybridizer famous for not releasing selections too soon before testing them.

            All of my ‘Loki’s have been grown from a single leaf of Peter’s  show plant that he handed me during break-down at the Mid-Atlantic Gesneriad Show at the University of Delaware in 2012.

            Since I had not been following Primulina, I didn’t have the story until later.  P. ‘Loki’ is a cross between P. brassicoides and P. dryas ‘Latifolia Dwarf’.  Peter tells me that it has hybrid vigor and was the most compact seedling he selected.

            So what commercial plants are sold as small foliage plants and if they eventually flower you get a surprising bonus?  Succulents or cactus, maybe?

            I’ve seen ‘Loki’ used in Terrariums and Miniature Gardens with great success.  It is a better long term choice with its variegation than Mini Violets which look nice while flowering but need replacing.

            Primulina ‘Loki’ is propagated by rooting leaves, similar to African Violets.  I finally have enough stock plants to stick several hundred leaves.  Once a steady supply of 2 ½’ plants can be produced, we will find out if there is demand.

            Primulina ‘Loki’ with its distinctive variegation and faster growth may be the one that gains commercial acceptance.  But it will take time.

Primulina 'Loki' grown by Jay Sespico