The National Poinsettia Trials are a collaboration of the research and trialing efforts at three universities (University of Florida, North Carolina State University and Purdue University), one commercial site (Homewood Nursery in Raleigh, N.C.) and five commercial breeders (Paul Ecke Ranch, Dümmen, GroLink, Selecta First Class and Syngenta Flowers).
This year, 14 new cultivars were introduced at the trials. These cultivars should be available in 2010; however, not all new cultivars are listed in the breeder company catalogs. Contact your supplier if you see one you want to try but it is not listed yet.
‘Christmas Season’ (SK 54) (Selecta). This cultivar has medium-sized bracts with a nice, bright-red color and large distinctive cyathia. Bracts are slightly elongated and ones on top were more upright, creating a moderately ruffled appearance. Larger bracts hung down slightly. Branching was excellent, and plants were uniform and moderately upright. The medium-vigor plants flowered early to midseason. This cultivar should work well in most containers sizes.
‘Premium Early’ (Dümmen). True to its name, these plants showed first color the earliest of any cultivars at NCSU and University of Florida, a full 10 to 15 days before ‘Premium Red’. It also flowered seven to 14 days before ‘Premium Red’, depending on the location. ‘Premium Early’ has the dark leaves, flat bracts and strong upright growth that characterize the Premium series. The medium-red bracts were more upright and smaller at North Carolina State University than ‘Premium Red’. The performance of ‘Premium Early’ varied at the different trial sites and did best in the University of Florida trial. Because of the normal low vigor of the Premium family and the early flowering of ‘Premium Early’, it will be even more important to schedule additional vegetative time for this cultivar. ‘Premium Early’ will work best for small pot sizes but should do well in 6½-inch pots with extra weeks of growth, especially in cooler climates.
‘Solstice Red’ (1232) (Ecke). This cultivar is now one of the few late-season cultivars available to growers. ‘Solstice Red’ has a nice presentation and uniformity with upright medium red bracts that are medium to large in size. The first transition bracts can be lighter in color, and the younger bracts are darker red. Its upright bracts and medium vigor make this cultivar suitable for average to high-density spacing. The foliage is dark green and branching is uniform. Solstice has upright stems and should work well in most container sizes.
‘Velocity Red’ (GroLink). ‘Velocity Red’ is the first cultivar to be submitted by GroLink in the National Poinsettia Trials, and it performed quite well. The sturdy plants had medium-size red bracts that were flat to upright. Bract size was good at Purdue but a bit small at NCSU and Florida. Plants flowered mid- to late season and had medium vigor. The plants had excellent branching, uniform growth and dark-green foliage. Velocity should be suitable in most containers.
‘Merry White’ (Selecta). This cultivar has medium to large white bracts with a greenish-yellow tinge. Transition bracts have distinctive green veins and margins. Bracts were flat or hung down slightly and the foliage was dark green. Plants were uniform with excellent branching. Plant habit was slightly spreading and stem strength was average. The medium vigor plants flowered mid- to late season. As a stand-alone white cultivar, ‘Merry White’ will likely be easier to grow than ‘Snowcap’.
‘Mira White’ (Syngenta). The generally spreading growth habit, uniform appearance and timing of this cultivar match well with ‘Mira Red’, which was introduced last year. The large, creamy-white bracts are slightly upright to flat with an oak-leaf shape. There are no green veins, and transitions bracts were not obvious. These low- to medium-vigor plants flowered early midseason. Branching was excellent but a bit uneven in development.
‘Wintersun’ (Selecta). The impressively large, creamy-white bracts with an oak-leaf shape characterize this cultivar. The centers of the bract clusters are fairly open, and transition bracts are not very obvious. The medium vigor plants have dark-green foliage and good branching. Habit is fairly spreading, and stem strength is probably less than average. Plants flowered midseason. ‘Wintersun’ will be useful for its large bracts and where plants can be ringed.
‘Christmas Feelings Dark Salmon’ (Selecta). While Dark Salmon is a beautiful color that’s well matched to the rest of the series, growers may have trouble categorizing this cultivar. The dark rosy-pink bracts are too light to be called a red and too dark to be sold as pink. Plants are upright growing with dark-green foliage and good breaking. Plants flowered late season.
‘Christmas Angel Marbella’ (Selecta). Unlike many marble cultivars, ‘Christmas Angel Marbella’ has excellent contrast between the narrow creamy white margin and the salmon-pink blaze in the middle of each bract. Bracts were carried upright, and the foliage was dark green. The uniform, well-branched and medium vigor plants flowered mid- to late season. The strong upright growth habit and timing fits well with rest of the Christmas Angel family. Note that both ‘Christmas Angel Marble’ and ‘Christmas Angel Marbella’ will be available, and Marbella has the stronger coloring.
‘Christmas Feelings Red Cinnamon’ (Selecta). This cultivar has the distinction of being the darkest red of the peppermint types available. The large, elongated bracts were a bright rosy-pink flecked with rosy red, and hung flat or slightly down. The younger bracts were bright apricot — some variability in color but not enough to be a problem. The vigorous plants flowered mid-to late season and had dark green foliage.
‘Christmas Feelings Cinnamon evol.’ (Selecta). The pale apricot-pink bracts were flecked with dark pink. The bracts were flat to slightly upright and the foliage dark green. Branching and overall uniformity was good. The low- to medium-vigor plants flowered mid- to late season. Compared to ‘Christmas Feelings Red’, the bracts are slightly more elongated, and the plant habit may be slightly more spreading and more vigorous.
‘Primero Glitter’ (39-02B) (Ecke). With a pattern similar to Shimmer, this cultivar has medium-sized cherry-red bracts flecked with spots and patches of creamy white. As with most jingle types, a number of bracts had reverted to other colors or patterns, but the amount seemed normal. The uniform plants are upright. Leaf color is very dark green. The medium-size bracts are pointed and held tight to the center, forming a bright star pattern of color against the dark leaves. Plant vigor is generally higher in warmer climates. Flowering is late season. ‘Primero Glitter’ is a stronger plant than ‘Shimmer Surprise’ and uniformity under natural days should be better than ‘Sonora White Glitter’.
‘Ruby Frost’ (Syngenta). A beautifully named cultivar with equally beautiful creamy-white bracts with the margins and veins liberally colored ruby-red. Some bracts are mostly red with white showing through, but the variation does not distract from final appearance. First transition bracts may not have good contrasting color patterns. Bracts and leaves are slightly contorted, but less than with some cultivars such as ‘Avantgarde’. Because of the smaller leaves the plants can look sparse as they are growing. The midseason plants were strong growing, and shoots were a bit uneven. Stem strength can also be poor. It may be best to overgrow the plants slightly and use plant growth regulators to even up shoot development and produce stronger plants. This cultivar may be more sensitive to high temperatures than most other varieties, and malformed leaves and stems might occur in the highest temperature situations. Plants worked well in all container sizes from 4½- to 8-inch tubs. Foliage is light green and bract presentation flat.
‘Tapestry’ (Ecke). Finally, we have a stronger growing ‘Holly Point’. ‘Tapestry’ has the gray-green leaves edged in yellow and cherry red bracts of ‘Holly Point’ but with much more vigor. The large cyathia are noticeable among the flat bracts. It is still not as vigorous as the average red cultivar but is strong enough to be grown in 6½ inch pots with one or two extra weeks of long days before short days. Larger containers would require multiple plants and still may not reach size. The bracts are flat; the variegation pattern is stable; and the breaking is uniform. ‘Holly Point’ had a significant problem with necrotic leaf margins, which is greatly reduced with ‘Tapestry’. Plants flowered midseason.