New Poinsettia Cultivars

If you are in the market for some new poinsettia varieties, here are this year’s new introductions.

Did you notice that poinsettia sales dwindled a little for the
2003 Christmas season? Well, here are some of the newest poinsettia cultivars
trailed in the 2003 National Poinsettia Trials. They are sure to add some new
excitement for customers for the 2004 Christmas season.

In last month's issue of Lawn & Garden Retailer style='font-style:normal'>, associate editor Catherine Evans asked a few
retailers about their 2003 poinsettia seasons. Many reported that reds were the
best sellers, as they are every year. "We had 20-plus varieties, but red
is always the most popular," said Alfred Hicks, president of Hicks
Nurseries, Inc., Westbury, N.Y.

Mitch Mayes, owner/vice president of Louisiana Nursery, Baton Rouge, La.,
agreed. "Traditional red was the best. In the last week or so we barely
had a red left." But there are so many types of reds -- reds that are big,
small, light, dark, speckled, etc. How do you choose, especially when everyone
carries red poinsettias? Look at the new varieties below to find reds, pinks,
novelties and many other types to add to your mix.

Push your supplier for the 2004 poinsettia season. Because they're new, make
sure you communicate with your suppliers as soon as possible.

The descriptions below are based on how the cultivars performed in our
trials, and we have only written about those cultivars that we personally grew.

Red Cultivars

1-99 (Ecke Ranch). Not pictured.
(Previously 'Thanksgiving Red' and 'Velveteen Red'. As of this writing, a final
name has not been chosen.) This early-flowering variety has a general
appearance and habit similar to 'Red Velvet'. The smooth, medium-red primary
bracts are large, while other bracts are small, creating an open center.
Cyathia clusters are small.

'Autumn Red' (Ecke Ranch). The
bracts of Autumn Red are upright, elongated and bright red with an orange cast;
foliage is dark green. Plants are medium to low vigor. Distinctions of this
cultivar are its bract presentation and plant strength.

'Cortez Electric Fire' (Fischer
USA). This distinct cultivar has bright orange-red bracts, which really stand
out against the reds. While most American consumers prefer darker reds, they
liked this cultivar, and it scored quite high in preference surveys. Electric
Fire has the growth habit of 'Cortez Red'.

'Christmas Poem' (Selecta First
Class). (Number SK 39 in trials.) The primary bracts of this medium-vigor
variety are large and elongated and held horizontal; the color is a slight
bluish red. Christmas Poem is a nice cultivar with strong, upright branches.

'Christmas Spirit 2' (Selecta First
Class). (Number SK 35 in trials.) This cultivar has medium-sized, bright red
bracts that are slightly heart shaped and held upright; foliage is dark green.
Individual cyathia are larger than most cultivars and provide good contrasting
yellow, green and red colors. It has good lateral shoot development and medium
vigor. Christmas Spirit 2 scored high in consumer preference surveys.

'Early Orion' (Fischer USA). Very
similar in growth habit and appearance to 'Orion Red', with large, medium-red
bracts and dark green foliage. Early Orion shows color and could be shipped 5-7
days earlier than Orion Red. However, in the trials, EarlyOrion produced
slightly fewer cyathia than did Orion Red.

Pink Cultivars

'Pink Elf' (Fischer USA). This new
pink is similar to 'Red Elf' in terms of growth habit, earliness, bract shape
and display. Like most dark-leaf varieties, the pink color is not great. Older
bracts are lighter; younger ?Å bracts have a darker pink color. This cultivar is
useful because of the need for pink in the earliest markets.

'Premium Hot Pink' (Dummen USA).
This cultivar is the best of the Premium colors with dark rosy-pink bracts that
are held horizontal to upright. The older bracts are uniformly colored, and the
foliage is dark green. This cultivar matches the others in the series for
height but flowered later. This cultivar is an excellent compact dark pink.

Jingle Bells Cultivars

'Shimmer Pink' (Ecke Ranch). This is
an excellent new novelty cultivar that finishes before Thanksgiving. The
upright bracts are a bright, medium pink with distinctive white flecks that are
colorful and attractive; studies have found that consumers will pay a higher
price for this plant. The foliage is dark green.

'Winterfest Jingle' (Oglevee Ltd.).
This cultivar has medium-red bracts with pink flecks and dark green foliage
that is strikingly shiny. Transition bracts are large and obvious with green
edges.

Marble Cultivars

'Premium Marble' (Dummen USA).
Bracts have a medium-pink center and creamy white edges, with very dark green
foliage. In all trials, the bracts were rolled down at the edges and did not
flatten out like others in the Premium series.

Novelty Cultivars

'Limelight' (Dummen USA). Contorted,
creamy white bracts with a yellowish green color are the same shape as 'Avant
Garde' or 'Strawberries and Cream'. Not really dark green flowers, but few
plants listed as such truly are. Many of the plants had one or more branches
with normal appearing bracts. Lower-than-average vigor, with midseason finish.
Truly funky and different. Great conversation plant that fits the lime green
trend in home decor.  

'Premium Apricot' (Dummen USA). The
large, flat older bracts are a creamy white with pink veins, and younger bracts
have an attractive light pink cast. No other currently available cultivars have
this appearance.

'Twister' (Dummen USA). This is a
midseason cultivar with curled leaves and bracts similar to Winter Rose. The
bract color is light red with slightly lighter green and smaller foliage and
smaller bracts than 'Winter Rose Dark Red'. Twister has larger centers with
more cyathia and produces more lateral branches than Winter Rose Dark Red.

'Winterfest Coral' (Oglevee Ltd.).
This cultivar has unusual, large, dark-pink bracts with a slightly orange cast,
and the foliage is dark green and shiny. As with others in this series, the
transition bracts are large and obvious with green edges. It is well matched to
the Winterfest series.  

'Winter Rose Early' (Ecke). A good
addition to the Winter Rose series. It has positive series characteristics:
strong stems and color, dark green foliage and excellent shelf life. This
cultivar's important features are that it flowers at least one week earlier and
is less vigorous than Winter Rose Dark Red.

Peppermint Cultivars

'Merry Christmas 2' (Selecta First
Class). This peppermint is a good addition to this color class. It has dark
green foliage. This cultivar scored well in consumer preference surveys.

White Cultivars

'Improved Silverstar White' (Fischer
USA). Creamy white, horizontal bracts with a green tint. The light green
foliage has an interesting grayish cast and narrow but bright-white edges.

Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at University of Florida and sister magazine, GPN’s consulting editor; John Dole is associate professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University; and Allen Hammer is professor of floriculture at Purdue University. For more information about the National Poinsettia Trials, go to www.poinsettiatrial.org.

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