Best of the Best By Jim Barrett, John Dole and Allen Hammer.

National Poinsettia Trial Coverage

This is a list and description of the best cultivars in the 2003 National Poinsettia Cultivar Trials. Characteristics used to select these included appearance, growth habit and consumer evaluations. Additionally, we considered whether or not the cultivar filled an important niche not filled by other cultivars. Figures 1 and 2, pages 32 and 34, show the ones selected from each of the trials, while only varieties that made the Best List at two locations are included here.

‘Christmas Spirit 2’ (Selecta). This is an interesting new cultivar with slightly heart-shaped, bright-red bracts. A distinctive feature is the large, brightly colored cyathia, which likely accounts for it scoring well in the consumer surveys. It finishes in early midseason and has an upright growth habit with medium vigor.

‘Cortez Electric Fire’ (Fischer). This distinct cultivar has bright orange-red bracts, which really stand out among the crowd of reds. While most American consumers prefer darker reds, many liked this cultivar, as it scored quite high in consumer preference surveys. Electric Fire has the growth habit and timing of ‘Cortez Red’.

‘Gala Red’ (Oglevee). This dark-leaved cultivar has bright-red bracts. Plants are low to medium vigor, allowing for tight spacing. Plants flower midseason, branch well and hold bracts horizontal to upright. A nice cultivar that should be tried.

‘Infinity’ (Dummen). This midseason cultivar has dark red bracts held upright for easy sleeving. The young bracts are noticeably darker red than the older bracts. The foliage is dark green and the plant is medium vigor. Plants branch well and are strong.

‘Jester Red’ (Ecke). The unusual appearance of the bright-red bracts makes this cultivar distinctive. The strong upright, elongated, pointed bracts flatten with age. The foliage is dark green. The postharvest life is excellent, and the upright growth pattern allows for easy sleeving. Jester branches well, and this medium vigor plant can be produced in almost any pot or basket size. Jester flowers early.

‘Mars’ (Fischer). An important feature of Mars is the very uniform growth habit and timing. It finishes in early midseason. In warm climates, it is less sensitive to heat delay than several other midseason cultivars. It has an upright growth habit and is slightly vigorous. In comparisons of red cultivars, Mars has good consumer appeal. Growers should note that the bracts are slightly smaller than average.

‘Merlot’ (Dummen). This is a nice deep red cultivar that performed well in the trials for the second year. It has a unique appearance among the reds, and consumers give it a high rating. The leaves and bracts are slightly smaller than average, and it has low vigor. It finishes about the last week of November.

‘Premium Red’ (Dummen). This is a low vigor red cultivar. Premium Red’s outstanding characteristic is its upright strong branches. Growers will need to learn to grow this cultivar to produce an acceptable plant for market.

‘Prestige’ (Ecke). Although this cultivar continues to cause timing concerns for some growers, it is too good of a cultivar not to grow. It has very strong upright branches that can withstand harsh handling at harvest without breaking.

Growers must monitor both day and night production temperature during initiation as well as bract development to avoid delay.

‘Winter Rose Early Red’ (Ecke). This is a significant improvement for ‘Winter Rose’, and it flowers about one week earlier. The bract form is not as nice as Winter Rose; however, it is acceptable. Winter Rose Early Red should help those growers who do not have the facilities for black cloth treatment to get Winter Rose into flower for the earlier markets.

‘Cortez Burgundy’ (Fischer). This cultivar is on the Best List because of its very high consumer appeal. Growth habit is similar to Cortez Red. However, Burgundy finishes a few days later than Red, which makes it later than the peak demand for novelty colors in most markets. Growers who have the capability of using backcloth to bring this in early should be using this cultivar. Sporting back to red has been a problem in the past with Cortez Burgundy. The breeders are working to control the problem.

‘Monet Twilight’ (Ecke). Monet Twilight is now an “old-time” cultivar but still a great choice for midseason. It is a consumer favorite with apricot-pink bracts that have rose-red flecks coalescing into a rose-red margin. Monet Twilight is a medium- to high-vigor plant with light green foliage. The plant can be a bit soft and prone to stem breakage, thus it will benefit from plant growth regulator applications.

‘Santa Claus Pink’ (Selecta). The large bracts are a bright medium pink. The veins and young bracts are slightly darker. The plants are vigorous, well branched and uniform. Plants flower midseason and the foliage is light green. All the colors in the Santa Claus series have performed well in the trials. This pink stands out and should be tried.

‘Shimmer Pink’ (Ecke). Shimmer Pink is unique in the Jingle Bells group with its pink background color, which is very attractive to consumers. It is a cultivar ideal for upscale markets. Shimmer Pink and ’54-99 R&W’ are related sports with similar growth habits. Shimmer Pink is not difficult to grow, but growers need to be aware of the characteristics, which are described in more detail in the list of this year’s new cultivars. An important feature is that they finish about November 20, when the demand of the novelty types is the strongest.

‘Sonora White Glitter’ (Fischer). When this cultivar is true-to-type, it is truly outstanding. It is a consumer favorite in all our surveys. The amount of reversion in this cultivar in 2003 was unacceptable and should not be repeated in 2004.

There will always be some reversion, but stock plant and cutting selection can minimize the reversion. Sonora White Glitter has that true Christmas jingle look that sets it apart from the others.

‘White Christmas’ (Selecta). This is the cultivar with the best white color in most trials for the past 2-3 years. It has low to medium vigor and finishes about the first of December. It is generally easier to produce than either ‘Santa Claus White’ or ‘Snowcap’, the other two cultivars with better than average color in the white category. White Christmas has smaller than average bracts but is very attractive when fully developed.

‘PX12004’ (Oglevee). A trend apparent from the trials is that the Jingle Bells group is being redefined with bolder, brighter spots and splashes. One of the best of this new style is the numbered cultivar PX12004 with bright red bracts and large splotches of white. From the limited number of plants, it also seemed to be more uniform than other jingle bell types with few sports. Plants are medium vigor and early flowering. PX12004 garnered a lot of positive comments from the public at the university open houses. The foliage is dark green. This cultivar is under further development and will be introduced in 2005.

54-99 R&W (Ecke). This is an excellent new novelty cultivar that brings a different look to the Jingle Bells group. It has a bright red background with light flecks. In one study that compared eight different Jingle Bells cultivars, over 50 percent of the consumers picked this as their favorite. This cultivar is closely related to Shimmer Pink, and growers should note the characteristics of these varieties given for Shimmer Pink. 54-99 will not be available until the 2005 season, because the breeder is working to reduce the percentage of sports.

Poinsettia trial coverage continues next month with the consumer interest survey, conducted by all three universities for the first time.

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Jim Barrett, John Dole and Allen Hammer.

Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at University of Florida and 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

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