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Mar 24, 2023

Do You Have a Back-Up Plan?

Chris Fifo
Product Representative


Despite the many challenges growers have faced the past year, there seems to be a sense of optimism for this Spring. However, that comes with a bit of caution. Therefore, "cautious optimism" seems to be the phrase for the season. As we all know, so much depends on how Mother Nature is going to treat us. Give us sunny and warm weekends and caution is out the door along with the crops. But…

Last Spring was not one of the best (understatement for some!) which led to fewer and smaller summer and fall perennial programs. This cautiousness then trickled into pre-bookings for perennials. With perennials being a longer-term crop than many of their annual counterparts it can be difficult to adjust on the fly.

What does your crystal ball tell you? Every grower I have visited this spring has a different story, but there is a lot of excitement. What if everything comes together perfectly and we have another season like 2020 where growers could sell nearly everything they could produce? What is your back-up plan if you cut back on your perennial pre-orders?

The answer is with First-Year-Flowering Perennials.

The focus of much of Darwin Perennials and Kieft Seed breeding has been in First-Year-Flowering Perennials. FYF for short. And not just a few flowers, but full flower power the first year. This has made it easier for growers to get perennials into flower in considerably less amount of time, versus having to overwinter. It also makes it much easier to schedule perennials to flower.

Before we introduce new perennials, we do a lot of trialing and culture research. For Kieft, much of it occurs in Elburn, Illinois; for Darwin it is in West Grove, Pennsylvania. Included in culture research is information on flowering.

To collect this data, our researchers plant varieties every 2-3 weeks in the Spring into early Summer. Early crops begin in the greenhouse and then get moved outside onto drippers. Later crops go right outside. Pinching is done as a grower may do it and then flowering information is collected. In data collection, the most important value to me is market readiness.

This information is all incorporated into culture sheets provided to growers. This equates to a lot of individual pages to navigate to schedule perennials. This can be a daunting task depending upon the size of your program.

Recognizing this, we have brought all the FYF scheduling information together into one, all-powerful tool at (link opens in new window)

Here, you can access all the scheduling data for Kieft Seed and Darwin Perennials’ FYF Perennials on one site. All you have to do is enter what week you would like your perennials to flower and the tool will tell you what week to plant plugs or liners, stick cuttings, or sow seed. It really is that easy! As a bonus, each crop page has complete cultural information available.

After scheduling and saving your program, you can then download the data into an excel spreadsheet. Easy peasy.

My only disclaimer when using this tool is to understand the regions where it was developed. Conditions for accuracy are noted in the tool. If you are a Southern grower you may want to take a week off the Spring schedule. For most Midwest and further north growers, you may want to schedule in an extra week to account for environmental variables. However, I have heard over and over that Summer and Fall scheduling is very accurate across North America.

Be aware that this tool is regularly updated and is currently undergoing some renovations to make it even more powerful. Stay tuned for some exciting changes!

Now, if this Spring’s sales blow out your forecast, you have your back-up plan in place with First-Year-Flowering Perennials.

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