Andrea Lazzeri makes a trip through the country

How are the Italian poinsettia genetics doing in the US?

After 15 years of breeding in poinsettia and over 10 years of experience with their genetics on the European market, Italian breeder Lazzeri entered North America in 2020. Since the introduction, numbers increased, and several varieties have even been awarded. Their collaboration with Syngenta ended this year, "whom we thank for their work," says Lazzeri's CEO Adriano Gobetti, and a new collaboration has begun with Vivero North America, with production in Mexico and headquarters in the US. Lazzeri delivers the genetics, and Vivero the cuttings. "In addition, we are proud that Dr. Johannes Nebelmeier has rejoined the Lazzeri R&D team." All in all, Lazzeri invested a lot over the last years, and it is bearing fruit. In order to learn more about the poinsettia sector in the US and the poinsettia performances in different regions, Global Product Manager Andrea Lazzeri decided to make a trip through the country.

Adriano Gobetti.

The US poinsettia market
Before presenting Lazzeri's 'poinsettia trip,' first some trends and developments he noticed. When visiting the growers, Lazzeri, for example, noticed that increasingly more companies are trying to find ways to become more sustainable. "They were not only interested in the characteristics of our varieties and how they can adapt to extreme climates, they were also interested in the production methods. There was a strong focus on sustainability everywhere. They, for example, try to reuse as much water as possible, reduce the use of peat in substrates, use less plant growth regulators (PGR's), and work with lower temperatures to keep costs down."

All in all, Lazzeri is pleased with what he has seen. "I'm happy to see that our genetics are able to adapt very well both to conditions of Florida and the Southern United States, where the climate is quite tropical – let's not forget that was discovered in Mexico- and further north, where conditions are more similar to those we find in Italy and Europe."

Tim Kepner of Pure Beauty with Amarena Early Glitter and Angelica Cretu and Kathleen Cooper of Costa Farms. Both nurseries are based in Florida.

However, there are more aspects that have piqued their interest. "For example, Americans know how to add value to the product and that they are taking care of the quality of packaging and shipping - a very important aspect considering the long distances the product often has to travel. Also, they manage to charge higher prices than growers in Italy."

Finally, another important trend he noticed are the early sales. "It is something our Italian growers could learn from. In Italy, poinsettias are offered from the Immaculate Conception onward, while overseas, they start selling them as early as the beginning of November. This makes it possible to deliver a fresher product, which can last longer from the customer and has lower production costs because less heating is needed in the greenhouse."

The poinsettia trip

Amy Morris of Millstadt Young Plants with Carmen red and Ivan Tchakarov of Metrolina with Superba New Glitter.

Kicking off in Illinois
The tour took off on November 16, 2022, with Millstadt Young Plants in Illinois as the first stop. "We were welcomed by Amy and the entire Millstadt team. They presented us the new red varieties, 'Aida,' 'Carmen,' 'Maestro,' and '1605,' and showed the characteristics of 'Alaska' and 'Superba New Glitter' to several groups of brokers. In the days that followed, Lazzeri went to Westfield (Indiana), Springfield (Tennessee), Mills River, and Huntersville (North Carolina), where companies Heartland Growers, South Central Growers, Van Wingerden International, and Metrolina Greenhouse have the same red varieties and the Superba family on trial.

Matt of Heartland Growers with Superba New Glitter and Josh Peterson Van Wingerden with Alpina.

In the heat of Florida
The "Poinsettia tour" then moved to Miami, Florida, to observe how poinsettias are grown outdoors. "It was extraordinarily interesting to see that you can make beautiful 'Stars' in such conditions," Lazzeri says. "There were temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) during the day and 30 °C (86 °F) at night, even in the fall. This can affect the production but both the reds like Gloria Red (1605) and other colors, such as 'Amarena Early Glitter,' responded very well." And he saw similar results in Orlando, where the weather conditions were a bit milder but still very hot.

Deanna Felton of Sun Belt with Aida Red and Tom Costamagna of Young's Plant Farm with Gloria Red (1605).

From Georgia to Alabama
At Sun-Belt Greenhouses in Douglas, Georgia, there was an opportunity to observe a larger-scale test. In addition to the red varieties, there were more varieties on trial, like 'Amarena Early Glitter' and the Superba family, particularly 'New Glitter,' 'Marble,' 'Pink,' and 'White,' and in even larger quantities 'Alaska' and 'Serena Red' in pots of different sizes. "The general feedback has been very good here as well." Last stop in the South at Young's Plant Farm in Auburn, Alabama, to see a poinsettia trial of the same size.

Melissa Winchester of Mast Young Plants with Superba Poker and John Davies of Henry Mast Greenhouses with Maestro Red.

In the North
After the November 24 break for the Thanksgiving holiday, the journey resumed heading north. The first stop was Mast Young Plants in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "Here, the Superba Poker series and a mix of the Superba Poker series stood out. "The advantage of this series is that the varieties in this series have the same vegetative characteristic."

A few miles away, they stopped at Henry Mast Greenhouses in Byron Center. "It was helpful to see how the poinsettias react a little differently in the North than in the South while still maintaining high responsiveness. Also, it was surprising to see, back in Illinois, at the next stop at Clesen Brothers in South Elgin, how the Superba family manages to perform in this part of the US. Especially 'Red,' 'Pink,' 'White,' and 'New Glitter,' grown from medium size to XXL."

Dale Shimanek of Cleson Brothers with Superba Red and Ian of Dan Schantz Farm with Superba Poker.

In Pennsylvania, they visited Dan Schatz Farm in Zionsville, and Esbenshades Greenhouse, in Lititz. "Here, temperatures were closer to what is usually considered ideal for poinsettia growing in Italy."

Cindy Holmes at Lucas Greenhouse with Carmen Red and Kimberly Dewar with Aida Red, and Patricia Dewar with Gloria Red (1605) at Dewar Nurseries.

Also, Lazzeri attended a lot of open houses. Plenty of them are organized during that time of the year. Lucas Greenhouses, in Monroeville, New Jersey, for example, organized one where Joan Moris and her team took the opportunity to present the entire Lazzeri genetics.

Samantha of Plantpeddler with Superba combos and Mike Gooder and Andrea Lazzeri with Superba New Glitter.

Top Red Variety
The last stop of the trip was at Plantpeddler Wholesale in Cresco, Iowa, where Andrea Lazzeri visited the Plantpeddler Poinsettia Variety Day along with Dominic Neisser and Nico Read from Vivero Internacional Mexico. "Here, each year, visitors are asked to vote, via a three-flag system for "Best Red Variety" and "Best Non-Red Variety" with a 3, 2, 1 point scoring. There were over 175 varieties from all the world's major breeders on trial in 2022, and among the "non-reds" Lazzeri's 'Superba New Glitter' triumphed and was ranked first.

Nick Read and Dominik Neisser from Vivero Internacional Mexico and Andrea Lazzeri at Plantpeddler Poinsettia Variety Day.

Greg Grothe of Knox Horticulture with Aida Red.

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Tel.: +39 0473 246246

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