How ThinkPlants Links Captain Calla Plants to the Markets in North America

An interview with director Joey Wiseman about the strong and steady relationship with Dutch breeder Kapiteyn.

By: THURSD. | 29-11-2023 | 6 min read
Garden Plants Indoor Plants
Orange Calla Plants

ThinkPlants is a representation agent that specializes in enhancing plant breeding and horticulture with a focus on North America. A dedicated team of plant breeders and other horticulture experts brings together some of the leading plant and flower developers across the board. The initiative has accordingly seen improved production and promotion of a wide variety of plants, including but not limited to calla, achillea millefolium, agastache hybrid, ajuga, astilbe, and alstroemeria in the North American region.

Among its key members is Kapiteyn, a Netherlands-based breeder of the widely acclaimed Captain Calla series, as well as other plants. Kapiteyn has, for years, been a key player, revolutionizing the flower and plant industry with its superior breeding work and production techniques for a variety of bulb flowers such as tulips, hyacinths, and of course their famous zantedeschias, a.k.a. calla lilies. You can read more about these captains of the callas.

What Is the Idea Behind ThinkPlants?

"In 2018, ThinkPlants was established as a partnership between three companies - Danziger, Syngenta Flowers, and Express Seed Company - in the horticulture breeding industry," says director Joey Wiseman. The goal of the collaboration was to produce, market, and promote the perennial lines of Danziger and Syngenta together, despite their being competitors. And since then, ThinkPlants has grown to include other breeders and producers, notably Kapiteyn, forming a premier team of experts in horticulture.


Joey Wiseman ThinkPlants quote


ThinkPlants Joey Wiseman at Cultivate 23
Joey Wiseman at the Cultivate 23 tradeshow in Columbus, OH


With the involvement of its members, ThinkPlants is dedicated to breeding and delivering a diverse mix of improved plant genetics and offers an unmatched supply chain of top-quality uprooted cuttings, bare-root, bulbs, plugs, and liners. These breeders' purpose is to bring plants to the market under one umbrella with complete transparency between the grower and the supplier.

Joey Wiseman explains:

“The strength of ThinkPlants lies in the cooperation between all participants. In this regard, growers can rely on ThinkPlants for a seamless connection to a supply chain and sales effort.”

Currently, there are 17 companies taking part in the initiative, and ThinkPlants represents the entire perennial portfolio for some of these breeders in the collaboration, while for others, it represents one or two product lines.

Apart from Kapiteyn, the other breeders in the program include Syngenta Flowers, Danziger, UNEX Inc, James Greenhouses, Terra Nova Nurseries, Green Circle Growers, KiwiFlora, Plants Management Australia, Creekside Greenhouses, Kieft Seed, Royal Van Zanten, Gulley Greenhouses, Headstart Nursery, Monrovia Nursery, Linwell Gardens, and DeVry Greenhouses.


Kapiteyn Works With ThinkPlants to Supply Callas to North America
Kapiteyn's calla varieties


ThinkPlants’ Collaboration With Kapiteyn

Wiseman indicates that very early in the development of ThinkPlants, Kapiteyn decided to join the group and use the platform to penetrate the North American market. And because back then the idea was untested, it was, basically, a leap of faith for all initial participants and a hope that the entire program would work. But, together with Kapiteyn, ThinkPlants has seen tremendous growth in their association.


“We have really grown this relationship, and we all feel like part of the same family. In fact, despite having little exposure to calla lily before starting ThinkPlants, it quickly became one of my favorite plants.

I am continually impressed by the breeding work and production of Kapiteyn. Notably, as I work in this industry, I have come to realize that it's all about people and their work.”


Kapiteyn Wim Kleine and Lennaert Kapiteijn at Cast 2022
Kapiteyn's Wim Kleine and Lennaert Kapiteijn at CAST (California Spring Trials) 2022 in Gilroy, CA


So, how does the partnership with Kapiteyn work?

ThinkPlants’ collaboration with Kapiteyn begins each fall by presenting new calla genetics to all major grower groups, allowing it to continue promoting the latter’s products. In the spring, this organization also oversees large grower trial shipments and then works with brokers and sales representatives to follow up on these trials and get orders for the calla tubers reserved with Kapiteyn. In addition, ThinkPlants also has a calla display annually at all the major US and Canadian tradeshows.

In essence, Kapiteyn's involvement with ThinkPlants has been transformative for the calla lily market in North America. Through this collaboration, this breeder's high-quality calla lilies have gained widespread recognition among growers and retail buyers. Plus, Wiseman's leadership at ThinkPlants, coupled with Kapiteyn's dedication to breeding excellence, have paved the way for the resurgence of calla plants as both potted plants and cut flowers.


ThinkPlants Presentation at Cast 2023
ThinkPlants presentation at CAST 2023


The Results... A Booming Market for Kapiteyn's Callas in the US

Many North American growers and retailers consider the calla lily part of a perennial program. And this is largely what made it an excellent addition to ThinkPlants portfolio.


"Through ThinkPlants, we are able to showcase calla lilies to all the major mass merchants and IGC (Independent Garden Center) growers. I believe we have significantly increased Kapiteyn's exposure to calla growers and retail buyers, making their high-quality callas more widely known in North America."

According to Wiseman, who has been working on the ThinkPlants initiative since its inception and has been involved in all aspects of growing the marketing platform; from the initial idea to its current influential status in the North American industry, calla lilies are now becoming increasingly popular in the US. Here, they are specially grown as container plants either for indoor table settings or for outdoor patios.


ThinkPlants Joey Wiseman pitching at Cast 2022
Joey Wiseman pitching products at CAST 2022


And in that regard, the program involving Kapiteyn has been instrumental in producing high-quality products, which is one of the reasons for their growing popularity in North America.

She points out that calla lilies are diverse and can be found selling at many different retailers ranging from garden centers to grocery stores, given the fact that the flower is fast gaining popularity among consumers as both a potted plant and cut flower. This is helped by the high-quality products hitting the market.


ThinkPlants Presentation at Cultivate 23
ThinkPlants presentation at Cultivate 23


For the markets, she opines that there are often regional differences based on segmentation or consumer behavior. For instance, in California, white calla lily is more greatly preferred.

Joey gives more details:

“I think generally that most consumers in the US market tend to prefer bold and bright colors over the soft pastel shades.”


Kapiteyn Works With ThinkPlants to Supply Callas to North America
Calla flowers from Kapiteyn


Wiseman's Concluding Thoughts on Working With Kapiteyn

One of the real attractions and advantages of working with Kapiteyn, according to Wiseman, is the growing knowledge and technical support that the breeding company offers to prospective growers.


Kapiteyn Works With ThinkPlants to Supply Callas to North America
Varieties of calla lily plants from Kapiteyn


Kapiteyn, she says, is able to provide step-by-step growing instructions and on-site visits to most growers, as well as the care tips that the breeder offers for caring for callas. And because the breeder takes its time to do this, there is a real increase in grower confidence and success with the plant in the region.


All photos courtesy of ThinkPlants.


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