Cultivated gerbera (Gerbera hybrida, Asteraceae Dumont) is one of the most important floricultural crops in the United States and worldwide (Behnke, 1984; Rogers and Tjia, 1990). It is well accepted in the cut flower and potted plant markets and can also be grown as a patio, garden, or landscape plant. Gerbera breeding over the past several decades has been focused primarily on developing cultivars for cut flower production or for small flowering pot plants to be used in flower beds (Behnke, 1984; Rogers and Tjia, 1990). Cut flower cultivars require gerbera flowers with long peduncles (greater than 50 cm). The majority of the pot gerbera cultivars have been developed for production in 15-cm-diameter or smaller containers; thus, these cultivars produce compact plants and flowers with short peduncles (less than 30 cm) (Dole and Wilkins, 1999). Recently, interest in producing gerberas in large (20-cm-diamter or larger) containers for indoor or outdoor use has increased [O. Nissen (Sunshine Carnations State, Inc.) and J. Mazat (Ball Horticultural Company), personal communication]. There has been a severe shortage of cultivars suitable for such uses (Channel, 2005). Greenhouse growers and nurseries often rely on two strategies to produce gerberas for this emerging market. One method uses cut flower cultivars and growth retardants to shorten the flower peduncles. However, finished plants often have few flowers and peduncles are still too tall for the pot size. Other growers have tried to use small cultivars, but finished gerbera plants tend to be too small and do not satisfactorily fill up the containers.
Previously we developed and released six gerbera cultivars for use in large containers (Deng and Harbaugh, 2010). These cultivars are marketed under the FuntasticTM series (Ball Horticultural Company) and have displayed exceptional heat tolerance in industry and/or university trials (Siktberg, 2012). Some of these cultivars were selected as “Best of the Best” in the University of Georgia garden trials (<http://ugatrial.hort.uga.edu/index.cfm>) and as top performers in the Ohio State University garden trials (Anonymous, 2011). The current series consists of five flower colors (white, light pink, yellow, orange, and orange–red). Additional cultivars are needed to expand the plant palette in this series. Like in other flower crops, continuous introduction of new cultivars with improved or novel horticultural characteristics may serve as a driving force for commercial production and consumer consumption (Behnke, 1984; Rogers and Tjia, 1990).
UFGE 7031 and UFGE 7080 were selected and tested specifically for the large-container flower market. These cultivars produce large plants with large attractive flowers and appropriate peduncle heights for use in larger containers. These gerberas also express moderate to high levels of resistance to powdery mildew, the most common and important disease in gerbera production and gardening (Chase, 2001; Moyer and Peres, 2008).
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