Planting Performance

Planting Performance

Increasing consumer success is the most important factor for growing our industry, says George Lucas, owner of Lucas Greenhouses. That’s why he is on a quest to produce plants that will perform. “As an industry, I often think we think too short term, what the plant looks like in the greenhouse,” he says. “But when customers buy that plant and put it in the ground and it doesn’t perform, eventually they will stop being customers. If it dies or consumers struggle with it, they won’t buy more. If it works, they’ll tell their friends. One of the good things about pay by scan is it forced growers to grow better stuff.”

Lucas and his growers conduct their own extensive trials and visit others to search for the best plants. This was the second year Syngenta Flowers held its summer field day at Lucas Greenhouses and about 150 visitors came through. The location ties in nicely for those visiting Penn State’s trials and the large number of growers in the Northeast.

Jason Szymanski (pictured), who has worked for Lucas Greenhouses since he was 17, grew the trials and manages a 7-acre section block as a section grower. He studied horticulture at a junior college and interned at Disney before returning. He’s also growing the Big Burley perennials for Gro’N’Sell, taking on hundreds of new varieties.

On Sept. 24, industry members will be visiting Lucas Greenhouses again for the mum field day, which began with Yoder Brothers. Later this fall will be poinsettia trials. “The trials are not just nice for Syngenta, but we can see how the new plants perform in our conditions long term and how they handle heat and rain,” Lucas says. “We want to bring more genetics in. Our head grower, Joe Moore, goes to a lot of the trials. He is looking for new products and making sure we are getting the best we can have, not what’s the cheapest but what we think are the best.”

Moore is amazed at how far vegetative annuals have come in the last 10-15 years. “There is a lot of really good product available, which really gives growers a lot of options,” he says. “I look for new varieties at Pack Trials and summer evaluation trials. We will then try to do production trials of new items the following spring. Since there are so many options, does the new product come from one of the partners we are working with? It’s hard to bring in just one or two varieties from a supplier. There needs to be enough volume to make it work logistically.”

Where Do Brands Fit In?

Although Lucas Greenhouses does support brands by growing young plants for them, Lucas confesses he’s not a big fan of growing branded products for his finished customers. “I always thought that if my product needed a fancy pot, I didn’t do my job,” he says. “The plants should be so awesome that you have to buy them.”

The main objection is the logistical challenge serving 800 retailers on speculation. “The problem with branding is if you have 10 garden centers and each has its own container, you have to sell those plants to them,” his wife Louise explains. “If they don’t take them, you’re stuck. It really limits you. Most of the weekly orders placed are at our discretion, whichever plants look best today. We can pull from any section of the greenhouses.”

Lucas Greenhouses will provide custom tags and labeling for retailers and promotes its seasonal combination plantings with larger tags designed with the John Henry Co.

Beyond branding and performance, George says the next big challenge on the plant side is what will be the next Proven Winners, or group of plants that reinvents our industry. “We had bedding plants from seed and then ivy geraniums and New Guinea impatiens from cuttings,” George says. “Then Proven Winners revolutionized vegetative annuals. What’s next? It’s going to be a challenge for somebody, but it might be nothing.”

Once the next hot crop category emerges, we expect Lucas Greenhouses will be among the leading propagators producing it.

Leave a Reply

More From Top 100 Growers...
Botany-Lane-Tropical

November 20, 2017

Botany Lane Greenhouses Announces Expansion Into Young Plants

Botany Lane, a producer of finished tropical plants, succulents, and specialty annuals in the Western U.S., recently announced it is expanding to provide young plants for growers and grower-retailers.

Read More
Damarys-Mora-Crawford-Costa-Farms

November 16, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Marketing Director Eager to Tap Into Changing Consumer Needs

In her new position, Damarys Mora Crawford will lead Costa Farms’ marketing team and create and execute strategic marketing initiatives to support continued sales growth for the company’s retail customers.

Read More
Speedling-Environmental-Award

November 9, 2017

Speedling Wins Environmental Leadership Award From Florida Ag Commissioner

Speedling has eight nurseries throughout the country and two in Florida, where moisture levels are carefully analyzed to improve performance and consistency of transplant operations.

Read More
Latest Stories
Botany-Lane-Tropical

November 20, 2017

Botany Lane Greenhouses Announces Expansion Into Young …

Botany Lane, a producer of finished tropical plants, succulents, and specialty annuals in the Western U.S., recently announced it is expanding to provide young plants for growers and grower-retailers.

Read More
Damarys-Mora-Crawford-Costa-Farms

November 16, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Marketing Director Eager to Tap Into C…

In her new position, Damarys Mora Crawford will lead Costa Farms’ marketing team and create and execute strategic marketing initiatives to support continued sales growth for the company’s retail customers.

Read More
Speedling-Environmental-Award

November 9, 2017

Speedling Wins Environmental Leadership Award From Flor…

Speedling has eight nurseries throughout the country and two in Florida, where moisture levels are carefully analyzed to improve performance and consistency of transplant operations.

Read More
Costa Farms Owners

August 1, 2017

Costa Farms Will Maintain Operations “the Costa Way” Wi…

The Miami, FL-based, Top 100 Grower operation announced an agreement for Markel to acquire a majority interest in Costa Farms and its related companies. But the operation will continue to be run by current leadership, with the partnership Markel offers to allow it to continue to grow.

Read More
ISO Cutting Machine

May 16, 2017

The Top 100 Growers are Investing in More Technology to…

Labor has traditionally been among growers’ most significant costs, but the continued rising costs and lack of available labor are currently two very heavy burdens that growers have to bear. As the labor supply dwindles, the Top 100 Growers discuss their next steps toward investing in technology to streamline efficiency at their respective operations.

Read More

May 16, 2017

The Top 100 Growers Speak Out on Changes Needed in Immi…

Opinions about the new administration’s approach to immigration reform vary widely among Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers. Many say they are “very concerned” about the potential impact on agriculture’s guestworker programs. Others say the entire guestworker program needs to be overhauled to be simpler and easier to use for growers, and hope that this will be part of the reform efforts. And some seem to be generally in favor of the current methods. “I am in favor of securing the borders but want a simple system for legal residency.” — Dale Buist, Countryside Greenhouse and Farm Market “All this talk has made huge waves in the migrant labor workforce. Continuing this path will create an even greater shortage of employees willing to do our type of work.” — Mark Worley, Speedling, Inc. “[Trump] is only enforcing and not reforming. We will lose a lot of our best employees if this […]

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

May 12, 2017

How the Top 100 Greenhouse Growers Tackle Managing Cost…

The country’s largest growers continue to strive to maintain a balance with price and costs while making sure they stand out from the competition.

Read More

May 8, 2017

Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Behind the Scenes: How (and W…

It’s more important than ever to have good data that allows us to accurately measure the size and scope of our industry.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

May 8, 2017

2017 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: The Complete Li…

Growth signifies a healthy industry, and indeed, several of Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers expanded their operations significantly between 2016 and 2017.

Read More

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

February 18, 2017

Top 100 Growers Survey for 2017 Is Now Open!

Operations with more than 400,000 square feet of environmentally controlled production are eligible to take the survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete.

Read More
Dan and Jerrys Greenhouse 1

February 17, 2017

Dan and Jerry’s Greenhouse Buys Iowa-Based DeJong Green…

The acquisition will allow Dan and Jerry’s, a bedding plant grower headquartered in Minnesota, to extend its seasonal product offerings and service a new customer base with local distribution.

Read More
Dallas Johnson

January 17, 2017

Dallas Johnson Greenhouses Owner Passes Away at 78

Dallas G. Johnson, who started the company in 1985, is survived by his wife, Kay, and two children.

Read More
Top 100 Breakfast Panel for 2016

July 19, 2016

Top 100 Growers Talk Labor, Automation, And Sustainabil…

More than 60 growers got up with the sun at Cultivate’16 to hear a four-person panel discuss hot topics such as labor, automation, and sustainability at Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Breakfast, sponsored by BASF.

Read More
Costa Farms won International Grower of the Year. Representing the operation, (left to right) were Chuck Zala, Michael Vera, Menachem Ganon, Jose Costa, and Mike Rimland

May 24, 2016

AIPH Seeking Entries For Its International Grower of th…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) is inviting ornamental growers from all around the world to enter the AIPH International Grower of the Year Awards (IGOTY) for 2017. Last year’s big winner was Florida-based Costa Farms.

Read More
Top 100 Drone Image Feature

May 16, 2016

Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Talk Technolo…

The Top 100 Growers are already by nature some of the most technologically advanced greenhouse operations, due to their sheer size and need for efficiency. Many of the largest growers also serve big box merchandisers and home improvement chains, where prices are dictated, so producing plants at the lowest possible cost is essential to growers not only staying in business, but also profiting and expanding their operations. This year’s survey focused on the automation and technology the Top 100 Growers are investing in, and how these advancements have improved their operations, as well as how they have affected growers’ labor issues. We also asked growers about how they’re solving labor issues, where they’re recruiting new hires, and how they’re keeping their people committed. Lean management programs and sustainability certifications have become higher priorities in the past several years, due to growers’ needs to run efficiently and focus attention on sustainable […]

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers With Drone

May 10, 2016

Reading The 2016 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Ranki…

Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers survey reveals continued growth among the nation’s largest operations.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

May 10, 2016

2016 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: The Comp…

Check out the full list of Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Top 100 Growers, which includes nine newcomers and more growth in square footage at the top.

Read More