US: Texas grocer to offer limited run of AgriLife Research-bred hibiscus

Rarely are Texas Plains gardeners able to purchase flowers bred specifically for their region. But in July, the United Family chain of stores will offer winter-hardy hibiscus plants bred by the Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental breeding program in Vernon.

The United Family has stores from Dallas-Fort Worth to Albuquerque that will participate in this distribution of winter-hardy hibiscus. The distribution will include some Texas A&M AgriLife-bred plants, with particular emphasis on the Vernon and Wichita Falls stores, said Bradley Gaines, business director for floral with the United Family, Lubbock.

The floral departments in about 90 stores will offer the plants, some of which will be from the award-winning Summer Spice Collection by J. Berry Nursery. This specific collection contains winter-hardy hibiscus bred by Dariusz Malinowski, Ph.D., AgriLife Research plant physiologist in the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon.

“Dr. Malinowski’s winter-hardy hibiscus program is the No. 1 program in the world,” said Rick Vierling, Ph.D., who serves as the center director at Vernon as well as Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed manager and senior adviser for business strategy for Texas A&M AgriLife. “Just three short years ago, he started a tropical hibiscus breeding program, and it is already one of the top programs in the world too.

“It is satisfying to see people and businesses in the region embrace the program. Commercialization is important to every breeding program; the money brought in by the hibiscus program also supports Dr. Malinowski’s forage breeding program.”

Malinowski’s primary research as a plant physiologist within the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Soil and Crop Sciences focuses on developing summer-dormant, cool-season forage grasses for semi-arid environments of the Southern Great Plains.

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