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Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

Dr. Zhanao Deng

Professor of Environmental Horticulture

Dr. Zhanao Deng develops new ornamental plant cultivars for Florida growers and consumers.

Current breeding efforts are directed toward the developing and releasing new caladium and gerbera cultivars, genetic sterilizing lantana and nandina, and evaluating and selecting superior Florida-native plants.

Dr. Deng's research activities focus on:

  • understanding inheritance of horticultural and aesthetic traits important to Florida growers and consumers;
  • investigating genetic bases for disease resistance traits;
  • developing new genetic, genomic, and molecular tools for increased breeding efficiency; and
  • applying new biotechnological advances to ornamental plant breeding and genetics.

Deng Environmental Horticulture Lab

  • Research

    The primary goal of Dr. Deng's research program is to develop new cultivars for the Florida environmental horticulture industry and to satisfy the need of plant materials for Florida-friendly landscaping.

    Florida’s environmental horticulture industry is a very important contributor to the state’s economy, employment, and rural development. Florida growers in this dynamic industry and consumers both face significant challenges, including devastating diseases, environmental stresses, and biological invasion.

    In response to industry and consumers' needs, the focus of Dr. Deng's research program has been to develop new cultivars with novel colors or coloration patterns, enhance container/landscape performance, improve disease resistance and stress tolerance, genetic sterility (or non-invasiveness), or other characteristics of interest to the industry and consumers.

    To increase breeding efficiency and expedite cultivar development, the research team studies the pattern of inheritance for important horticultural or aesthetic traits, investigates the genetic bases of these traits, and develops new genetic, genomic, and molecular tools that can be applied to ornamental plants.

  • Extension

    Extension: Evaluating and Selecting Ornamental Plant Cultivars

    Florida is among the largest producers and consumers of ornamental plants in the nation. Florida producers ship large volumes of ornamental plants to domestic and international markets.

    The major thrust that drives the industry is the constant introduction and use of new cultivars. New cultivars with new or improved horticultural characteristics, improved production and/or landscape performance, disease resistance, or stress tolerance keep Florida growers competitive and increase their profitability in domestic and global markets. New cultivars—with these attributes—also result in better performance for Florida consumers and can improve Florida consumers' quality of life.

    Dr. Deng's Extension program serves to deliver research-based information and educational materials on new ornamental plant cultivars to county Extension faculty and clientele, including growers and consumers, so they can make better decisions when selecting new cultivars for production or consumption.

  • Lab Team


    Lab Phone Number: 813-419-6603
    Staff Member Contact Information
    Eric Autery, Ag Assistant III  
    Austin Bridges, OPS Tech  
    Gasselle Cordova, Grad Student  
    Mariel Gallardo Salazar, Bio Scientist II  
    Devon Hall, OPS Tech  
    Lucina Hernandez, Ag Assistant I  
    Mireidy Herenandez Gonzalez, OPS Tech  
    Sandy Luna, OPS Tech  
    Maria Elena Razo Pantoja, OPS Tech  
    Brooks Parrish, Grad Student
    Erik Reeves, OPS Tech  
    Alexander Schaller, Grad Student



Rm. 166
Gulf Coast Research and Education Center
14625 County Road 672
Wimauma, FL 33598

  • Education


    • Ph.D. Horticulture (Plant Breeding and Genetics), Huazhong Agricultural University, 1988
    • M.S. Horticulture (Plant Breeding and Genetics), Huazhong Agricultural University, 1985
    • B.S. Horticulture (Pomology), Sichuan Agricultural University, 1982
  • Publications
  • Professional Service and Awards
    • UF/IFAS Plant Breeders Workgroup, Secretary, 2013–2016
    • UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Graduate Scholarships and Awards Committee, 2012 – Present
    • American Society of Horticultural Science, Cross-Commodity Publication Awards Committee, 2013–2016
    • American Society of Horticultural Science, Outstanding International Horticulturist Awards Committee, 2012–2015
    • South China Agricultural University, ‘Ding Ying’ Guest Professor, 2013–2015
    • American Society of Horticultural Science, Fellows