Gerberas are a very popular choice for the novice gardener. Even consumers who don’t know a lot about flowers are drawn to the bright colors and recognizable flower shape of gerbera, says Amy Briggs-Macha, Customer Solutions Tech Lead for Syngenta Flowers.

“When they go into a garden center, they typically go straight to the gerberas,” Briggs-Macha says. “It’s that daisy-type flower. It’s very recognizable, even for people who don’t know a lot about flowers. You’ve got immediate recognition, so you get good sell through, but then often people take them home and they go out of flower. Then you’re left with this plant that is not doing much.”

Briggs-Macha develops protocols for wholesale growers to follow for Syngenta’s seed products. In her role, she provides education and technical support for Syngenta’s grower customers. Gerbera are tough plants, they can survive heat and drought but they won’t survive frost. Still, the big question consumers have is how to keep these plants flowering all summer long.

“Last year, my neighbor bought three gerbera hanging baskets and they looked beautiful for two weeks,” Briggs-Macha says. “Then they got really dry and went out of flower, and they just looked like weeds in a basket for the rest of the summer. That’s the disappointment with gerberas for consumers. They look really pretty at the garden center, then they get them home and they lose the flowers. Then they wonder, ‘Now what?’”

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Growing tips

There are a several tips consumers should follow to ensure their gerbera looks as good at their house as it did the day they bought it at the garden center.

When they bring home their gerbera, they should remember to fertilize it every couple of weeks. That’s something a lot of homeowners don’t do, Briggs-Macha says.

Gerbera like sunshine and lots of it. High light areas will promote flowering, so consumers should take that into consideration when planning their garden. The plant will thrive in partial to full sun areas. Gardeners should remove dead flowers with garden shears to encourage the gerberas to keep re- blooming for as long as possible. There’s less new flowers without removing spent blooms, Briggs-Macha says.

Another misstep is letting the plants get wilted or too dry. On the opposite end of the spectrum, too much water can lead to root rot.

Powdery mildew is probably the biggest fungal disease issue for gerbera. Briggs-Macha says the key to preventing this is for consumers to avoid watering late in the day.

“If the leaves are wet at night, it tends to promote disease,” she says. “So watering early in the day is a good thing.”

Botrytis is also a common disease that affects the flowers. It can fester and incubate in dead flowers, which is another reason to remove any spent flowers. If homeowners stay vigilant with their pruning, they tend to keep that issue at bay.

As far as insect problems, aphids, fungus gnats, shore flies, mites, thrips, whiteflies and leafminers are typical pests of gerbera. However, if greenhouse producers are following proper protocol, consumers probably won’t have pest problems.

Choosing a gerbera

Syngenta’s gerbera program offers many color options and sev

eral different types. Briggs-Macha says the two most popular gerbera series are Jaguar and Bengal. Jaguar is a proven performer that has been on the market for many years, and Bengal is a new addition to the line for 2016. Bengal is a more vigorous plant, larger-growing than the Jaguar.

“Both of series are bred for lots and lots of flowers,” she says. “They flush multiple flowers at a time, so you get continuous blooms. As long as you keep them watered and fertilized, they’ll keep flowering all summer.”

Syngenta has another series of gerbera, as well. Cartwheel gerbera differentiates itself with semi-double flowers. This really sets Cartwheel apart from other gerberas on the market, Briggs-Macha says.

“If you think about gerberas, normally they are a single-petal flower,” she says. “The Cartwheel series are doubles, they are a little fancier, and they come in an array of different colors.”

The Cartwheel gerbera also tends to come in larger sizes. It’s a good choice for consumers who want a showier, bigger plant for a patio pot.

In fact, the top factor determining which gerbera consumers should buy is its placement in their home. Briggs-Macha says Jaguars are a good choice for gardeners with a small patio, because they tend to fit well in smaller containers. But Bengal and Cartwheel are better options for those looking to fill a larger space. If they want a traditional gerbera, Bengal has that classic daisy-type flower. Cartwheel’s semi-double blooms gives gardens a completely different look.

Gerberas begin to be seen prominently in garden centers around Mother’s Day. To make sure they’re ready for that big weekend, growers need to make sure they are shipping them with the right amount of flowers. Usually, Briggs-Macha says, growers hold to the rule of three open flowers with more buds on the way. This specification helps the plants look good enough to buy at the garden center, but once the plants arrive home with the consumer they still have flowers coming.

“That makes sure they are sending out plants that are initiated and already flowering but not blown,” she says. “Those won’t last very well for the end user.”

For more information, visit www.syngentafhg.com