It takes many years for a gardening public to embrace a new plant variety, and the spread is usually by word of mouth (or thanks to nosey neighbours!). New BeautiCal looks set to become just as famous as the Surfinia brand! Plants are strong, stylish and sexy, and offer something completely different. Plus, they’re finally a Petunia that’s weatherproof!
I’m already seeing BeautiCal planted in commercial gardens, and that’s a really good sign..! Sometimes, it can take decades to instigate a change in such amenity planting. But, with a winner like this, the big bosses make their minds up swiftly!
How to grow BeautiCal:
Flowering time: June to September
How was the BeautiCal family created?
You know what a Petunia is, right? Do you also know Calibrachoa? It’s kinda like the Petunia’s little brother. Popular when branded as ‘Million Bells’ back in the 90s, but they were a bit of a diva to grow. Many home gardeners didn’t know they were super sensitive to different pH levels in the soil, and they’d throw a tantrum if too wet!
Whilst Petunia and Calibrachoa differ genetically, it’s also possible to hybridize the two plants… now that’s exciting! That’s exactly what Japanese company Sakata did, and the results are truly giving the best of both worlds. It took many years and thousands, if not millions of plants, to get there though…!
When you make an ‘intergeneric hybrid’, you’re taking two entirely different genus of plants and pollinating one with one another. They aren’t genetically modified, but simply hybridized across the genus. Another example where this yielded great success was with Digiplexis ‘Illumination’, where breeders took Digitalis and hybridized it with close relative Isoplexis.
The results of an ‘intergeneric cross’ take on traits from both parents. In the case of Petunia and Calibrachoa breeding, it would change the flower in a way that would bring plenty of benefits…
What’s different about this plant?
Creating the ‘x Petchoa’ hybrid solved many Petunia problems along the way! The stronger bloom genetics of Calibrachoa made the usually delicate Petunia blooms become MUCH more weatherproof! Calibrachoa don’t tend to have the stickiness that Petunia blooms have either, which makes the plant ‘cobweb’ after a rain shower. Here’s a quick demo of the game changing all-weather performance:
The hybridisation means that dead-heading is less gruesome and simply not required, as plants cover over faded blooms with new growth as they develop. That’s what we call ‘self-cleaning’!
In terms of plant habit, we’re talking upright and bushy, so neat they look like little shrubs in the border. Plants are sterile, so do not create any seeds (seed-making is a process that usually halts blooming).. plants keep flowering instead!
The colours really get me going too! I remember first walking into the Sakata trials location in The Netherlands a few years back. I just knew I was looking at a future classic. The pink, bronze and yellow shades wouldn’t be out of space in a coffee or milkshake bar either! With 5 colours in total, you can play with many different combinations… become your own garden designer (it could be cheaper that way, too!)
Where can you plant BeautiCal?
If you’re tired of neat, compact plants that don’t quite fill containers and look lost in borders, then BeautiCal could be for you! Plants are voluptuous and beaming with rainbow colours… why not calculate how much space 40cm x 40cm each plant would fill in your outside space? They’d also look fantabulous in a windowbox! So, pull out your notepad and write it down…
Where can you buy BeautiCal plants?
BeautiCal are available each spring from mail order outlets and retail garden centres, in various combinations or as single colours.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.