National Poinsettia Trials 2002

February 28, 2003 - 07:55

The National Poinsettia Trials, sponsored by the poinsettia
breeders, were established to provide an independent evaluation of the many new
cultivars being introduced. There are too many new cultivars for growers to
adequately 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 there
is no "one best way" to grow them. At the same time, one cannot truly
judge a poinsettia until it has been in production for 2-3 years.

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

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

This report has been split up into three sections: cultivars
recommended according to grower type (large or specialty), page 10; new
introductions, page 16; and the best of the best from the trials, page 20. This
is 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 for
your production situation and market. Poinsettia trial coverage continues next
month with the consumer preference surveys.

Recommended Cultivars

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

Based on university trials and observations of commercial
crops, this list includes cultivars that have been in our trials at least two
years, as well as those recently introduced. Those recommended cultivars that
have been trialed at least two years have been given a preference rating of
either 1, 2 or 3 based on a number of criteria we will discuss later. The
cultivars listed as preference 1 are those that are most likely to work well in
the widest number of situations. Preference 2 cultivars are those that will
work well as long as the grower is aware and can provide their particular
requirements. Preference 3 cultivars are those that are a little more demanding
or are less familiar. Cultivars listed as "worth watching" are the
new ones that performed well in the fall 2002 trials. Because these cultivars
have only been under evaluation one year, we are not yet comfortable
recommending these cultivars; growers may, however, want to begin trialing
these cultivars, as they show promise.

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

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

The Type 1 cultivars, as indicated by a superscript, are not
strongly recommended for larger growers, since those cultivars are more
sensitive to the stresses of boxing, staying in the sleeve during retail or
poor watering at retail. It is also important to remember that growing the
plants in different forms and containers can differentiate many of the
cultivars listed for large growers.

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

New Cultivars for 2003

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

Red cultivars

'Merlot' (Dummen
USA). This red has a unique appearance and is included in the Best of the
Trials list. See description on page 20 for more details on this interesting
new cultivar.

'Euro Star' (Dummen
USA). This is an early-season, low- to medium-vigor plant with medium-red
bracts and dark green leaves. Due to the low vigor, it did not perform as well
as several other cultivars in the trials.

'Giant Red' (Fischer
USA). Not pictured. The "giant" in the name seems to refer to the
large, fleshy bracts and cyathia rather than the growth habit. The large,
rounded bracts were a medium red and reminiscent of 'Subjibi'. However, the
short plants with large features were not among the top performers in any of
the trials.

'Mars' (Fischer
USA). Mars flowered mid- to late-season, had dark green foliage and medium
vigor. The generally small bracts are rounded in appearance and are held
horizontal to upright. The bract color is medium red. Reviews on Mars are
mixed. There were not any obvious problems with Mars this year, but at the same
time, it did not show any obvious unique attributes. We need to observe Mars
under more conditions to judge where it fits with other commercial cultivars.

'Olympus' (Fischer
USA). This early- to mid-season red made our Best of the Trials list and more
comments are provided there. It may be a good cultivar for that
"after-'Freedom'" timing that is so badly needed.

'Gala Red' (Oglevee
Ltd.). 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 attractive
display. Finish timing is early-season. It is less vigorous than Freedom or
Orion and seems to be fairly easy to grow. Growers wanting a less-vigorous form
of Freedom or Orion should evaluate Gala Red. We are looking forward to seeing
it in more trials.

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

'Silent Night' (SK
24) (Selecta). The large, medium-red bracts of Silent Night were noticeable.
They are more elongated than most other cultivars, and the edges tend to roll
somewhat. This medium-vigor plant flowered midseason. The leaves were dark
green. While it is a nice cultivar, we need to see it in more situations to
judge its value to poinsettia growers.

'Christmas Feelings'
(SK 25) (Selecta). This is a nice red with good, large, flat bracts. It has
low-to-medium vigor and flowers mid-season. Feelings has an upright growth
habit, and the leaves are dark green. It is another new cultivar that may fit
in the "after-Freedom" niche. We need to see Feelings in different
situations as growers try it.

Rose cultivars

'Winterfest Salmon Rose' (AKA Coral) (Oglevee Ltd.). This is a mid- to late-flowering addition
to the Winterfest family. It had oak-leaf-shaped, rose-colored bracts that have
an orange cast. The bracts tended to fade with age, and the large transition
bracts were mottled green and detracted from the overall display. Like the rest
of the Winterfest series, it is fairly vigorous and does better in Northern

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 for
this year. Unfortunately, this new color does not fit well with the growth
habit of Premium Red. White is much less vigorous and was too small in most

'Winter Rose White'
(Paul Ecke Ranch). This, along with 'Winter Rose Marble', is an addition to the
Winter Rose series. White is more important because it is a significant
improvement over the old Winter Rose White. This White appears to have a growth
habit and timing similar to 'Winter Rose Dark Red'. Á

'Santa Claus White evol.' (Selecta). This new White selection fits well into the Santa Claus
group. 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 bright
white, and the leaves are light green.

Pink cultivars

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

'Carousel Pink' (Fischer
USA). 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 comments

'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 on
page 24.

Marble cultivars

'Winter Rose Marble'
(Paul Ecke Ranch). This, along with Winter Rose White, is an addition to the
Winter 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 evaluating
poinsettia cultivars. The following cultivars were picked as the best of the
individual trials based on a number of different factors. In some cases, they
simply stood out and looked the best. In some cases, they are the best because
they 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 more
Prestige grown than any of these cultivars. We just could not put a cultivar on
the best list that caused as many problems as Prestige did this year (See the
sidebar on cultivars we are still learning about on page 19).

Red cultivars

'Merlot' (Dummen
USA). Merlot is a new cultivar with dark red bracts and even darker young
bracts. The foliage is dark green. This cultivar has low- to medium-vigor and
is best-suited to pot sizes up to 61/2 inches. Again, the dark red bracts make
this cultivar stand out among the many reds, and it received very high ratings
in some consumer surveys.

'Christmas Wish'
(Selecta). Christmas Wish was new in 2001 and has an appearance different from
most other mid-season red cultivars. It has large, horizontal bracts with showy
flower clusters (centers) and is a dark-leaved, medium-vigor cultivar that
flowers mid- to late-season. A good, reliable performer with potential for
those growers producing larger plants and wanting larger bracts.

'Max Red' (Paul Ecke
Ranch). Great, low-vigor plant for high-density production or larger plants
with more vegetative time. The upright-facing bracts are large and smooth,
giving the plant a fuller look. Some plants have such large bracts that they
tend 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 of
vegetative growth. Max Red probably has the most attractive bracts of any
commercial poinsettia. Weaknesses are the low vigor and that it is slightly
more sensitive to bract edge burn than expected for a dark-leaf cultivar.

'Olympus' (Fischer
USA). This is another nice, new red cultivar. It has dark leaves and dark red
bracts. 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 it
under production conditions.

'Orion Red' (Fischer
USA). Not pictured. An excellent cultivar for the early market, Orion has
become important in most of the country. It has bright red bracts with upright
growth of branches. Á Orion has the good shipping characteristics needed
for the large grower. Weaknesses are that it is more vigorous than Freedom
early and can stretch like Freedom late under high temperatures. Also, if not
handled properly it can have weak laterals similar to Freedom.

'Premium Red'
(Dummen USA). This was a new introduction in 2001 that has outstanding upright
branches with large stem caliper. Bract color and form are somewhat similar to
Freedom. However, Premium Red has low vigor and will require less growth
regulator and/or longer vegetative time.

'Velveteen Red'
(Paul Ecke Ranch). Not pictured. A new introduction we need to continue to
study. It finishes early and has large, showy red bracts, thus it could be
considered an early 'Red Velvet'. Velveteen Red could fit the
"high-class" market. It looked better in Northern trials in 2002. A
weakness 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 growth
habit, appearance and timing to 'Carousel Red'. The pink color is attractive,
and anyone using the Red should try Carousel Pink. Carousel Red has created
considerable interest where it is sold as a novelty red. However, the weakness
of both Carousel Red and Pink is the late finish timing. They work best when
done in a large container size. When black cloth is used to bring them in
early, they make very attractive upscale plants.

'Enduring Pink' (Paul Ecke Ranch). This is a new cultivar
that has the potential to become the standard pink in warm climates. It has
uniform, upright-facing, bright-pink bracts without darker pink veins or fading
on the older bracts, which is typical of many pinks. The pink color is superior
to both 'Freedom Pink' and 'Maren'. It is a dark-leaf cultivar with better postharvest
performance than Maren, and is less-sensitive than Maren to Botrytis and bract
edge burn. Enduring Pink finishes with 'Freedom Red'. A weakness is that the
growth habit is different from Freedom. It is generally a little less vigorous
than Freedom, but it can elongate rapidly and stretch at the end almost as much
as Freedom in the warmest climates. In Northern production areas, it will
require more vegetative time.

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

White cultivars

'White Christmas'
(Selecta). One of the brightest white cultivars available today -- even more
white than two of the other great whites: 'Whitestar' and 'Snowcap'. This
medium-vigor cultivar is best-suited to 61/2-inch or smaller pots. It is the
last of the white cultivars to finish and can be used as the white after
December 1 under natural days. Unfortunately, it may lack appeal because the
bracts 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 as
a replacement for 'Freedom Jingle Bells'. It has a better appearance and
finishes with Freedom. Stem strength is a weakness for Jingle Bells 4.0, so it
should not be used for taller plants until the grower is familiar with it.

'Sonora White Glitter' (Fischer USA). Bright, colorful and
exceptionally decorative, this cultivar is the most popular jingle bells-type
in 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 a
spectacular display. They are also vigorous and can become overgrown if too
little growth regulator is used. Santa Claus Marble has nice marble coloring
and is the only marble cultivar that approaches the consumer appeal of
'Marblestar' style='font-weight:normal'>. This Marble finishes a little after the other
colors in the series. The entire Santa Claus series should be looked at for
large-size containers, since it is easy to grow and displays well because of
excellent 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 has
been rated the highest in consumer surveys. The light green leaves do put this
cultivar in the poorer shipping and postharvest group; however, handled
properly, this cultivar will have adequate consumer performance. Finish timing
is similar to Success.

'Monet Twilight'
(Paul Ecke Ranch). The distinctively elegant bract coloration of this cultivar
continues to make it one of our favorites. Yes, it can be too vigorous and will
drop leaves if stressed, but it is worth the trouble. Consumers always rate it
near the top of all cultivars.

Novelty red cultivars

'Chianti Red' (Paul
Ecke Ranch). Chianti has deep red, oak leaf-shaped bracts on dark green
foliage. The upright bracts surround the very different-looking red flowers
(cyathia), each of which is encircled by a ring of Á bright yellow
nectaries. While the unusual flowers may put this cultivar in the novelty
class, the exceptionally dark red bracts mean Chianti will have mainstream
appeal. It has been one of the highest-rated reds in some consumer surveys. The
bracts 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 a
low-vigor cultivar, and longer vegetative growth is needed to reach the desired
size. 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 is
important not to lower the temperature before Chianti is finished.

'Freedom Fireworks'
(Paul Ecke Ranch). This plant has a truly unique bract shape -- bracts are long
and narrow, giving the plant a real "fireworks" look. It has the best
of the Freedom Red characteristics, with moderate vigor, dark green leaves and
easier production requirements. It is particularly nice in baskets and tubs
where more of the fireworks appearance is seen. Finish timing is similar to
Freedom 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 one
stand out, particularly in the greenhouse. Even though the bract color fades
with age, the resulting color still has consumer appeal. Cortez Burgundy
finishes later than 'Cortez Red'.



Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at the University
of Florida and GPN's consulting editor; he may be reached at Allen Hammer is professor of floriculture at Purdue
University; he may be reached at John Dole is associate
professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University; he may be reached

About The Author

Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at the University of Florida and GPN's consulting editor; he may be reached at Allen Hammer is professor of floriculture at Purdue University; he may be reached at John Dole is associate professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University; he may be reached at

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