My First Season Growing Lisianthus
Lisianthus are beautiful, heat loving plants that work well as a substitute for roses in design work. They have an elegant, smooth, thornless stem and a much longer vase life than roses; lasting up to two weeks in the vase. Whereas, growing healthy roses that are abundantly blooming in the humidity of the southeast is quite a challenge, lisianthus do well in the heat and have a profusion of blooms that are a dream to work with for floral designers. The first wave of blooms is the most abundant, with a succession of blooms coming in small waves afterwards until frost.
My first experience growing lisianthus has been a pleasant surprise. Lisianthus has a reputation for being difficult to grow, so I expected to face some challenges while growing it for the first time. Going into my third year of flower farming, and learning how to grow in a newly constructed high tunnel, I decided to add another challenge to the mix by growing 1120 lisianthus plants from plugs that I ordered in the fall of the previous year.
Almost all of our annual plants are grown from seed that we start in late winter/early spring. But because lisianthus are notorious for being difficult to grow from seed, I chose to order plugs from our supplier, and had them delivered to our farm in February. When they arrived, I bumped them up into larger, 2" soil blocks, where they continued to grow in the high tunnel until being planted into the ground in early April. They received a dose of fish emulsion every couple of weeks while they were waiting to go in the ground. In early April, we pulled out the anemones and ranunculus that had grown in the high tunnel throughout the winter, reworked the rows with a heavy layering of compost, and dug in the little lisianthus plants.
They looked so tiny in those two long rows. Being new to growing lisianthus, I really wasn't sure what to expect, so I just kept spraying them with fish emulsion and watching them grow. Then I finally started seeing the first buds on the 'Roseanne Green" variety.
They had their first large flush of blooms in early June. I absolutely loved using them in my own designs! We sold the rest to local florists and designers.
The 'Echo Lavender' and 'Echo Champagne' weren't far behind. I found that the 'Echo Champagne' stems were a little shorter and not quite as sturdy, but that could be because they didn't get tucked into the ground quite as well as they should have. Lesson learned on that one!
The last to bloom was the 'ABC White'. They are a later blooming variety and I'm still waiting on their second flush of blooms. The first flush was beautiful! After the first flush of blooms on the 'Roseanne Green' had been cut, I sprayed fish emulsion weekly to encourage new blooms. I believe that has helped greatly in getting a good second flush of blooms. Since the varieties that I chose have different blooming periods, I always cut the blooming flowers before spraying with fish emulsion to prevent spots from developing on the petals.
I've fallen in love with lisianthus from my first season of growing and working with it. I've been considering the pros and cons of growing them outside next season. But because of our waterlogged clay soil in the spring, and because they've done so well in the high tunnel throughout the summer, I've decided to grow the majority of the crop under the protection of the high tunnel again next year. I plan to trial a few outside to see how they make it through our wet spring. I also plan to try to start a few from seed as well, but will also purchase plugs because I'm not certain that I will be able to get enough started from seed. And I'd like to try some new varieties next season, like 'Roseanne Brown' and 'Corelli Light Pink'. All in all, it's been a highly successful first season for growing lisianthus and I'm looking forward to many more!