Greenhouse crop and container trends from the International Plant Materials Show in Germany

Attending the International Plant Materials show in Essen, Germany, provided new ideas for plant material and packing for greenhouse growers. Mini plants, bright containers and alternative shade crops were some highlights.

A group of Michigan State University Extension floriculture faculty and staff (Kristin Getter, Erik Runkle, and I) attended the International Plant Materials Essen show in Germany this winter (January 2013). It is the largest horticulture plant materials and supply show in the world. Nearly 60,000 visitors from all continents attended the four-day show that had over 1,500 exhibitors showcasing ornamental plants, cut flowers and production equipment and supplies. We also visited some progressive Dutch greenhouses to see new technology in lighting and crop production. Our group will be developing additional articles on these subjects in the next few weeks.

Items that caught my attention were the increased volume of mini plants available from the Danish growers. They showcased many different mini plants grown in 2.5-inch pots that were packaged in a four pack or as a single plant with a value-added decorative container to complete the package (Photos 1 and 2).

Miniature plants
Photo 1. Miniature plants are popular. Photo credit: Erik Runkle, MSU

Miniature plants
Photo 2. Packaging multiple miniature plants together. Photo credit: Erik Runkle, MSU

While popular over 10 years ago, these small plants have made a significant comeback and are being widely marketed across the European continent as a small table decoration, a gift item or a novelty. I expect some Michigan plant retailers will begin to grow more of these as a niche market item that can be reasonably priced in today’s marketplace. Plants like chrysanthemums, roses, kalanchoes and poinsettias were some of the crops grown in this fashion.

Growers should also take note of some new color trends for containers that emerged at the show. Brightly colored pots, hanging baskets and large containers were on display in chartreuse green, fuchsia pink and bright purples. These are new opportunities to provide the consumer beyond the mundane white, green and terra cotta colors that are typically at the retail level (Photos 3-5).

Colorful hanging baskets
Photo 3. Colorful, hanging baskets for 2013. Photo credit: Tom Dudek, MSUE

Hanging baskets
Photo 4. Brightly colored hanging baskets for 2013. Photo credit: Tom Dudek, MSUE

Tire as planter concept
Photo 5. Automobile tire as a planter concept. Photo credit: Tom Dudek, MSUE

Another topic that I paid attention to was the lack of any displays that included Impatiens walleriana. The suppliers indicated that because downy mildew has been problematic in Europe for the past few years, they have been recommending alternative, shade-tolerant crops like begonias and New Guineas impatiens. Michigan growers and retailers have increased their alternatives to impatiens as well due to this potentially devastating foliar disease. Growers are reminded that some alternatives to garden impatiens can be found online at MSU’s Alternatives to Impatiens website.

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