Early Spring Conditions Could Extend Growing Season for Texas Bedding Plant Growers

Early spring conditions may have disrupted bedding plant producer schedules, but milder-than-normal conditions could mean an extended growing season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist.

Dr. Charlie Hall, professor of horticulture, College Station, said early spring conditions for Texas and much of the southeastern U.S. and Central Midwest have pushed the typical schedules ahead for bedding plant growers.

The problem for some midwestern areas is that temperatures could be in the 80s one day and well below freezing the next, Hall said.

The roller coaster temperatures played havoc on retail stores and suppliers, he said. Retailers tried to avoid receiving plants too early, but consumer demand amid spring-like conditions led many to supply products despite possible freezes.

“Stores have been holding off as much as possible to reduce consumer complaints,” he said. “They don’t want to have products out that might be stunted or killed by a freeze as soon as people get them home or right after they’re planted.”

Producers expect to have their plants ready for shipment to stores within a week or two-week window, and the weather has pushed those schedules forward, he said. There are many time-sensitive factors at play within the production and supply chain that Mother Nature has altered.

“They usually want to meet specific schedules so you don’t have plants sitting, getting long in the tooth and possibly being placed as a mark-down item,” Hall said. “But then you have plants that are placed early and were purchased and a cold front kills or stunts them. The return policy at some stores places the responsibility on the grower, so the early spring could be a double whammy.”

Poor performing plants or plant kills could discourage homeowners from purchasing replacements or planting other varieties later in the season, Hall said.

But Hall said he is optimistic that consumer confidence and the early spring could be a great combination for producers and the bedding plant, ornamental and tree industries.

Early spring conditions could extend the growing season to allow another eight-week crop, if weather conditions allow, Hall said. Timely rains beyond mid-May and a mild June would be good for producers hoping to capitalize on the extended growing season.

Hall said the consumer confidence is high, and shoppers are willing to spend and take on debt at pre-recession levels.

“That’s why I am bullish on bedding plants, ornamentals and trees,” he said. “The earlier-than-usual season could be disruptive, but it could also be an opportunity. The question will be weather and whether growers can extend the season another crop.”

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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