By Claire Woodward, Ph.D
Although the seasonal house is showcasing Azaleas this season, it would be hard to miss the vividly colored, daisy like blooms of the Florist Cineraria’s.
Florist Cineraria’s actually aren’t Cinerarias but are from the genus Pericallis. The genus Cineraria now only include the 35 species endemic to Southern Africa and Pericallis only includes the 14 species endemic to the Canary Islands found off the coast of North Africa.
Pericallis species were first described and sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London, England by the Scottish plant hunter Francis Masson. In 1776 he began an expedition to the Canary Islands, the Azores and the West Indies. This was a tumultuous expedition plagued by bad weather and if coping with Mother Nature wasn’t enough, Francis Masson was captured and imprisoned by the French on Grenada as they fought to claim the island from the British. Luckily for us, the Pericallis species gathered by Masson had been sent to England in an earlier shipment and by 1777 the first hybrids between Purple Leaved Pericallis (P.cruenta) and the Poplar-Leaved Pericallis (P.lanata) were made.
In keeping with the ethos of ‘grow your own’ the Cineraria’s were grown by Seattle City Parks Department Senior Gardener Johan Schorer. The plants that you see in full, glorious bloom in the seasonal house were started from ‘Jester’ seed mix on October 1, 2013 in a peat based soil. If you think you would like a blast of color in your home next spring, put a note in your diary for October 1st.
- Grow these seeds in a relatively hi-grade to average potting mix with a pH of 5.9 to 6.2.
- Do not use “Miracle Gro” or any medium that has fertilizer in it as the ammonium nitrae will damage seedlings.
- It is best to grow your seedlings in high, indirect light throughout.
- Once the seedlings are large enough to transplant to 5” pots, vernalize at 45 to 50°F for five weeks. For optimal results grow the plants with air temperatures at 50°F and bottom heat at 60°F. ‘Jester Mix’ requires cold treatment to set flower buds but ‘Venezia Mix’ does not, so if you cannot control for temperature it might be best to use ‘Venezia’.
- Make sure to water sparingly until roots are fully developed. Too much water can quickly rot the plants.
- Finish the crop at 58 to 62°F, fertilizing weekly with 17-5-17 fertilizer.
- Watch for pythium (a fungal like rot), aphids and thrips.
- After vernalization, increase indirect light to initiate bud break and if flowers start to pale, decrease light.
- Cineraria are not a good bedding plant in the Pacific Northwest. Native to the Canary Islands, they would prefer the kind of weather found along coastal Big Sur, CA but theydo make good houseplants and so you can bring a little of the Canary Islands into your home during the dull days of spring.
Thank you to Johan Schorer and Kristen Spexarth for the growing tips!