National Poinsettia Trials 2002 By Allen Hammer, Jim Barrett and John Dole

The National Poinsettia Trials, sponsored by the poinsettiabreeders, were established to provide an independent evaluation of the many newcultivars being introduced. There are too many new cultivars for growers toadequately evaluate them all. Unlike many spring crops or bedding plants,individual poinsettia varieties require different handling in production. Also,environmental factors affect how the different individual cultivars perform.There are many individual preferences for how to produce poinsettia and thereis no “one best way” to grow them. At the same time, one cannot trulyjudge a poinsettia until it has been in production for 2-3 years.

We hope these trials help growers focus on which cultivarsmight have the best fit in their operation based on their markets andproduction styles. Along with the university sites — North Carolina State,Purdue and University of Florida — the trial is also conducted by Joe Stoffregenat Homewood Nursery in Raleigh, N.C. These trials would not be possible withoutthe cooperation and support of the following poinsettia breeder companies:Dummen USA, Paul Ecke Ranch, Fischer USA, Olgevee Ltd. and Selecta. The trialswould also not be possible without our dedicated staff, including leadtechnical staffers Ingram McCall at North Carolina State University, Terri Kirkat Purdue University, and Carolyn Bartuska at the University of Florida.

We would also like to express our appreciation to RoyLarson. Over the years, Roy was an inspiration and mentor to many youngscientists and students. Roy was one of the founders of these poinsettia trialsand a significant influence on the programs at each university.

This report has been split up into three sections: cultivarsrecommended according to grower type (large or specialty), page 10; newintroductions, page 16; and the best of the best from the trials, page 20. Thisis the most complete coverage of last year’s poinsettia trials you’ll find anywhere,so make the most of it by using these reports to choose the right varieties foryour production situation and market. Poinsettia trial coverage continues nextmonth with the consumer preference surveys.

Recommended Cultivars

There are a large number of poinsettia cultivars currentlyavailable, and many new ones are being introduced every year. These newcultivars often promise better performance, appearance and shipping, but howcan you tell which ones are right to put into your program? The following listof recommended cultivars has been developed to help you make this decision.

Based on university trials and observations of commercialcrops, this list includes cultivars that have been in our trials at least twoyears, as well as those recently introduced. Those recommended cultivars thathave been trialed at least two years have been given a preference rating ofeither 1, 2 or 3 based on a number of criteria we will discuss later. Thecultivars listed as preference 1 are those that are most likely to work well inthe widest number of situations. Preference 2 cultivars are those that willwork well as long as the grower is aware and can provide their particularrequirements. Preference 3 cultivars are those that are a little more demandingor are less familiar. Cultivars listed as “worth watching” are thenew ones that performed well in the fall 2002 trials. Because these cultivarshave only been under evaluation one year, we are not yet comfortablerecommending these cultivars; growers may, however, want to begin trialingthese cultivars, as they show promise.

The best cultivar for an individual grower varies withlocation, production practices and markets. In the past, we have made ourrecommendations based on all three of these criteria; however, withimprovements in production practices, chemicals and genetics, we have noticedthe decreasing influence of location and have focused our selection onproduction practices and markets, though vigor is still addressed in thefootnotes.

Most notably, we based our recommendations on the connectionbetween size of operation and market. For the purposes of our recommendations,large growers are those supplying mass market retailers. Specialty growers arethose supplying other retail markets and desire to produce a differentiatedproduct. We also consider that the specialty grower is more likely able tosupply the particular culture required for a larger number of cultivars.

The Type 1 cultivars, as indicated by a superscript, are notstrongly recommended for larger growers, since those cultivars are moresensitive to the stresses of boxing, staying in the sleeve during retail orpoor watering at retail. It is also important to remember that growing theplants in different forms and containers can differentiate many of thecultivars listed for large growers.

There are other poinsettia cultivars not listed that can begrown successfully when the grower is very familiar with the cultivar and canprovide the required culture for it; therefore, this list should be viewed as astarting point.

New Cultivars for 2003

These are the cultivars that were in the trials for thefirst time in 2002 and are now available to poinsettia growers in 2003. Therewere other cultivars in the trials that breeders have chosen not to offer atthis time; these are not included. The descriptions are based on how thecultivars performed in our trials. Four of these new cultivars performed sowell that they were selected for the Best of the Trials list; these cultivarsare described in more detail in that list on pages 20-26.

Red cultivars

‘Merlot’ (DummenUSA). This red has a unique appearance and is included in the Best of theTrials list. See description on page 20 for more details on this interestingnew cultivar.

‘Euro Star’ (DummenUSA). This is an early-season, low- to medium-vigor plant with medium-redbracts and dark green leaves. Due to the low vigor, it did not perform as wellas several other cultivars in the trials.

‘Giant Red’ (FischerUSA). Not pictured. The “giant” in the name seems to refer to thelarge, fleshy bracts and cyathia rather than the growth habit. The large,rounded bracts were a medium red and reminiscent of ‘Subjibi’. However, theshort plants with large features were not among the top performers in any ofthe trials.

‘Mars’ (FischerUSA). Mars flowered mid- to late-season, had dark green foliage and mediumvigor. The generally small bracts are rounded in appearance and are heldhorizontal to upright. The bract color is medium red. Reviews on Mars aremixed. There were not any obvious problems with Mars this year, but at the sametime, it did not show any obvious unique attributes. We need to observe Marsunder more conditions to judge where it fits with other commercial cultivars.

‘Olympus’ (FischerUSA). This early- to mid-season red made our Best of the Trials list and morecomments are provided there. It may be a good cultivar for that”after-‘Freedom'” timing that is so badly needed.

‘Gala Red’ (OgleveeLtd.). Gala Red came close to making the Best of the Trials list. It has large,medium-red bracts with good form and color, which produces an attractivedisplay. Finish timing is early-season. It is less vigorous than Freedom orOrion and seems to be fairly easy to grow. Growers wanting a less-vigorous formof Freedom or Orion should evaluate Gala Red. We are looking forward to seeingit in more trials.

‘Happy Christmas’(SK 22) (Selecta). This mid-season, red cultivar with dark green leaves has anappearance that is different from other cultivars. The bracts are the color ofscarlet red geraniums and are large, flat and held horizontal. Happy Christmashas low vigor but good stem strength. It has potential for programs desiringdistinctive bract color or programs requiring the use of less growth regulator.

‘Silent Night’ (SK24) (Selecta). The large, medium-red bracts of Silent Night were noticeable.They are more elongated than most other cultivars, and the edges tend to rollsomewhat. This medium-vigor plant flowered midseason. The leaves were darkgreen. While it is a nice cultivar, we need to see it in more situations tojudge its value to poinsettia growers.

‘Christmas Feelings’(SK 25) (Selecta). This is a nice red with good, large, flat bracts. It haslow-to-medium vigor and flowers mid-season. Feelings has an upright growthhabit, and the leaves are dark green. It is another new cultivar that may fitin the “after-Freedom” niche. We need to see Feelings in differentsituations as growers try it.

Rose cultivars

‘Winterfest Salmon Rose’ (AKA Coral) (Oglevee Ltd.). This is a mid- to late-flowering additionto the Winterfest family. It had oak-leaf-shaped, rose-colored bracts that havean orange cast. The bracts tended to fade with age, and the large transitionbracts were mottled green and detracted from the overall display. Like the restof the Winterfest series, it is fairly vigorous and does better in Northernclimates.

White cultivars

‘Premium White’(Dummen USA). This color, along with Pink, is a new color added to ‘Premium Red’,which was introduced last year and is included in the Best of Trials list forthis year. Unfortunately, this new color does not fit well with the growthhabit of Premium Red. White is much less vigorous and was too small in mosttrials.

‘Winter Rose White’(Paul Ecke Ranch). This, along with ‘Winter Rose Marble’, is an addition to theWinter Rose series. White is more important because it is a significantimprovement over the old Winter Rose White. This White appears to have a growthhabit and timing similar to ‘Winter Rose Dark Red’. ç

‘Santa Claus White evol.’ (Selecta). This new White selection fits well into the Santa Clausgroup. It is a great white for a large-bract plant in a specialty market.Despite its large size, it flowers early. The bracts are large and brightwhite, and the leaves are light green.

Pink cultivars

‘Premium Pink’(Dummen USA). This color, along with White, is a new color added to ‘PremiumRed’, which was introduced last year and is included in the Best of Trials listthis year. Unfortunately, this new color does not fit well with the growthhabit of Premium Red. Pink is closer to Red in vigor, but it does not have thesame uniform, impressive appearance. A very soft pink, it was not rated veryhigh by consumers.

‘Carousel Pink’ (FischerUSA). Not pictured. A new pink to go with the established ‘Carousel Red’.Carousel Pink made the Best of the Trials list, page 22 — see the commentsthere.

‘Enduring Pink’(Paul Ecke Ranch). This is an important new introduction that may replace’Freedom Pink’ and ‘Maren’. It is described in the Best of the Trials report onpage 24.

Marble cultivars

‘Winter Rose Marble’(Paul Ecke Ranch). This, along with Winter Rose White, is an addition to theWinter Rose series. Marble might be described as unattractive by most; however,there will be some that will like it, and it will be used.

Best of the Best: 2002 Poinsettia Trials

There aren’t any established standards for evaluatingpoinsettia cultivars. The following cultivars were picked as the best of theindividual trials based on a number of different factors. In some cases, theysimply stood out and looked the best. In some cases, they are the best becausethey add features that are not available in other cultivars. It is notable that’Prestige’ is not on this list even though in 3-4 years there may be morePrestige grown than any of these cultivars. We just could not put a cultivar onthe best list that caused as many problems as Prestige did this year (See thesidebar on cultivars we are still learning about on page 19).

Red cultivars

‘Merlot’ (DummenUSA). Merlot is a new cultivar with dark red bracts and even darker youngbracts. The foliage is dark green. This cultivar has low- to medium-vigor andis best-suited to pot sizes up to 61/2 inches. Again, the dark red bracts makethis cultivar stand out among the many reds, and it received very high ratingsin some consumer surveys.

‘Christmas Wish’(Selecta). Christmas Wish was new in 2001 and has an appearance different frommost other mid-season red cultivars. It has large, horizontal bracts with showyflower clusters (centers) and is a dark-leaved, medium-vigor cultivar thatflowers mid- to late-season. A good, reliable performer with potential forthose growers producing larger plants and wanting larger bracts.

‘Max Red’ (Paul EckeRanch). Great, low-vigor plant for high-density production or larger plantswith more vegetative time. The upright-facing bracts are large and smooth,giving the plant a fuller look. Some plants have such large bracts that theytend to appear a bit cramped as they compete for room atop the small plants.May be difficult in Northern areas because it will require more weeks ofvegetative growth. Max Red probably has the most attractive bracts of anycommercial poinsettia. Weaknesses are the low vigor and that it is slightlymore sensitive to bract edge burn than expected for a dark-leaf cultivar.

‘Olympus’ (FischerUSA). This is another nice, new red cultivar. It has dark leaves and dark redbracts. The bracts are smaller and held up more than either Orion or Freedom,but they are a similar color. Olympus finishes five days or so after Freedom.It looked very promising in the trials, and we need to learn more about itunder production conditions.

‘Orion Red’ (FischerUSA). Not pictured. An excellent cultivar for the early market, Orion hasbecome important in most of the country. It has bright red bracts with uprightgrowth of branches. ç Orion has the good shipping characteristics neededfor the large grower. Weaknesses are that it is more vigorous than Freedomearly and can stretch like Freedom late under high temperatures. Also, if nothandled properly it can have weak laterals similar to Freedom.

‘Premium Red’(Dummen USA). This was a new introduction in 2001 that has outstanding uprightbranches with large stem caliper. Bract color and form are somewhat similar toFreedom. However, Premium Red has low vigor and will require less growthregulator and/or longer vegetative time.

‘Velveteen Red’(Paul Ecke Ranch). Not pictured. A new introduction we need to continue tostudy. It finishes early and has large, showy red bracts, thus it could beconsidered an early ‘Red Velvet’. Velveteen Red could fit the”high-class” market. It looked better in Northern trials in 2002. Aweakness may be that it is more sensitive to bract edge burn than Red Velvet,Freedom or Orion.

Pink cultivars

‘Carousel Pink’(Fischer USA). Not pictured. This is a new pink that has a similar growthhabit, appearance and timing to ‘Carousel Red’. The pink color is attractive,and anyone using the Red should try Carousel Pink. Carousel Red has createdconsiderable interest where it is sold as a novelty red. However, the weaknessof both Carousel Red and Pink is the late finish timing. They work best whendone in a large container size. When black cloth is used to bring them inearly, they make very attractive upscale plants.

‘Enduring Pink’ (Paul Ecke Ranch). This is a new cultivarthat has the potential to become the standard pink in warm climates. It hasuniform, upright-facing, bright-pink bracts without darker pink veins or fadingon the older bracts, which is typical of many pinks. The pink color is superiorto both ‘Freedom Pink’ and ‘Maren’. It is a dark-leaf cultivar with better postharvestperformance than Maren, and is less-sensitive than Maren to Botrytis and bractedge burn. Enduring Pink finishes with ‘Freedom Red’. A weakness is that thegrowth habit is different from Freedom. It is generally a little less vigorousthan Freedom, but it can elongate rapidly and stretch at the end almost as muchas Freedom in the warmest climates. In Northern production areas, it willrequire more vegetative time.

‘Santa Claus Pink’(Selecta). The Santa Claus family has the largest bracts of any poinsettias andproduces a spectacular display. They are also vigorous and can become overgrownif too little growth regulator is used. Santa Claus Pink has large, bright-pinkbracts and was the second choice pink cultivar behind Enduring Pink in a recentconsumer survey. The entire Santa Claus series should be looked at forlarge-size containers, since it is easy to grow and displays well because ofexcellent plant form and bract size.

White cultivars

‘White Christmas’(Selecta). One of the brightest white cultivars available today — even morewhite than two of the other great whites: ‘Whitestar’ and ‘Snowcap’. Thismedium-vigor cultivar is best-suited to 61/2-inch or smaller pots. It is thelast of the white cultivars to finish and can be used as the white afterDecember 1 under natural days. Unfortunately, it may lack appeal because thebracts are relatively small, but we loved it anyway.

Jingle bell cultivars

‘Jingle Bells 4.0’(Paul Ecke Ranch). This jingle bells-type is notable because it can be used asa replacement for ‘Freedom Jingle Bells’. It has a better appearance andfinishes with Freedom. Stem strength is a weakness for Jingle Bells 4.0, so itshould not be used for taller plants until the grower is familiar with it.

‘Sonora White Glitter’ (Fischer USA). Bright, colorful andexceptionally decorative, this cultivar is the most popular jingle bells-typein consumer surveys. As with other jingle bell-types, it sports relentlessly.Also, it is later than other members of the Sonora family.

Marble cultivars

‘Santa Claus Marble’ (Selecta).The Santa Claus family has the largest bracts of any poinsettias and produces aspectacular display. They are also vigorous and can become overgrown if toolittle growth regulator is used. Santa Claus Marble has nice marble coloringand is the only marble cultivar that approaches the consumer appeal of ‘Marblestar’. This Marble finishes a little after the othercolors in the series. The entire Santa Claus series should be looked at forlarge-size containers, since it is easy to grow and displays well because ofexcellent plant form and bract size.

Peppermint cultivars

‘Christmas Candy’(Selecta). An excellent, very clean-colored, peppermint bract plant. Of the”peppermint types,” this cultivar has the best pink color and hasbeen rated the highest in consumer surveys. The light green leaves do put thiscultivar in the poorer shipping and postharvest group; however, handledproperly, this cultivar will have adequate consumer performance. Finish timingis similar to Success.

‘Monet Twilight’(Paul Ecke Ranch). The distinctively elegant bract coloration of this cultivarcontinues to make it one of our favorites. Yes, it can be too vigorous and willdrop leaves if stressed, but it is worth the trouble. Consumers always rate itnear the top of all cultivars.

Novelty red cultivars

‘Chianti Red’ (PaulEcke Ranch). Chianti has deep red, oak leaf-shaped bracts on dark greenfoliage. The upright bracts surround the very different-looking red flowers(cyathia), each of which is encircled by a ring of ç bright yellownectaries. While the unusual flowers may put this cultivar in the noveltyclass, the exceptionally dark red bracts mean Chianti will have mainstreamappeal. It has been one of the highest-rated reds in some consumer surveys. Thebracts are not large, but the plant works well in pots sizes up to 61/2 inches.The upright branching structure will make Chianti easy to sleeve. This is alow-vigor cultivar, and longer vegetative growth is needed to reach the desiredsize. Be careful with growth regulators; in warm climates, it will need some,but use lower rates. Finish time is 10 days or so after Freedom. It isimportant not to lower the temperature before Chianti is finished.

‘Freedom Fireworks’(Paul Ecke Ranch). This plant has a truly unique bract shape — bracts are longand narrow, giving the plant a real “fireworks” look. It has the bestof the Freedom Red characteristics, with moderate vigor, dark green leaves andeasier production requirements. It is particularly nice in baskets and tubswhere more of the fireworks appearance is seen. Finish timing is similar toFreedom Red.

Novelty cultivars

‘Cortez Burgundy’(Fischer USA). Cortez Burgundy has medium-to-large, dark burgundy-red bracts,which age to dark red and dark green leaves. The rich color makes this onestand out, particularly in the greenhouse. Even though the bract color fadeswith age, the resulting color still has consumer appeal. Cortez Burgundyfinishes later than ‘Cortez Red’.

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Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at the Universityof Florida and GPN’s consulting editor; he may be reached atjbarrett@mail.ifas.ufl.edu. Allen Hammer is professor of floriculture at PurdueUniversity; he may be reached at pah@hort.purdue.edu. John Dole is associateprofessor of floriculture at North Carolina State University; he may be reachedat john_dole@ncsu.edu.

Allen Hammer, Jim Barrett and John Dole

Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at the University of Florida and GPN's consulting editor; he may be reached at jbarrett@mail.ifas.ufl.edu. Allen Hammer is professor of floriculture at Purdue University; he may be reached at pah@hort.purdue.edu. John Dole is associate professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University; he may be reached at john_dole@ncsu.edu.



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