Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to create a new commercial crop.

Primulina 'Loki' hybridized and grown by Peter Shalit
Story # 133,

            Walmart has a deceptively simple system for sales.  They continually monitor what sells and then get more of that.

            To create a new commercial crop we need supply to be introduced into the market.  Every Garden Center is looking for the “What’s new?” plant.  “New” keeps gardeners interested.

            Commercial plant production has evolved into three phases --- the specialist propagator, the grower/finisher and the retail garden center.  The last two in the chain may try a new plant but will only continue if it can be finished in 3 months or less and be durable enough to survive shipping and hold up in the store for weeks.

            Can Primulina ‘Loki’ be entered in this race for acceptance as a commercial crop?

            Nothing can happen until a specialist propagator decides to take a chance on producing Primulina.  At the moment, there are limited stock plants.

            A parallel crop to study is Cyclamen.  It is a long crop from seed to flower, so an extra step evolved --- pre-finished.  A finisher may decide to pot twice as many as he needs and then sell off budded plants in order to have room to space out his own.  This gives the final finisher the illusion that it is a short crop.

In any case, for Primulina to be grown as a flowering houseplant, multiple production segments may be needed to get it to flowering within a year.

Do Primulinas have the same potential as African Violets?  Violets started with only blue flowers, leaves that were brittle and detaching flowers.  Holtkamp Greenhouse solved these problems and now produces millions, worldwide.

There are Primulinas with blue, yellow and white flowers but flowering time is prohibitive. That leaves it to be grown as a small foliage plant and P. ‘Loki’ is the best one.

            If they sell, we’ll get/grow more.


  1. Where I think the primulinas have a huge advantage, certainly over african violets, is that most of them are very attractive foliage plants (especially many of Peter Shalit's recent creations). The flowers are a bonus on top of what is already a nice plant. Moreover, they are generally easy to grow and fairly tolerant of neglect, especially dry soil. That's a huge advantage over many houseplants. The primary obstacle may be the somewhat brittle leaves and petioles that may make sleeving and shipping tricky, but if you can get these plants onto retail shelves, I think they will sell.

  2. John,
    I hope that you are right about the good potential of Primulina. Thanks for pointing out their durability when grown dry. Even if they are dried down to a wilt, they seem to recover without harm.
    The variegated foliage may be enough to get indoor gardeners interested.