National Poinsettia Trials: 2007 Consumer Picks By John Dole and Jim Barrett

How poinsettia consumers respond to cultivars should be an important factor in deciding which cultivars to produce and retail. As a part of the National Poinsettia Trials, consumers are surveyed annually at Homewood Nursery & Garden Center (Raleigh, N.C.), the University of Florida and North Carolina State University to gain information on their preferences for the wide array of different poinsettia cultivars. These trials are sponsored by the poinsettia breeders and would not be possible without their support.

In 2007, two traditional novelty cultivars remained overall favorites with consumers at all three locations: 'Cortez Burgundy' and 'Shimmer Surprise'. The latter appears to be replacing 'Sonora White Glitter' as one of the top favorites. Last year's runaway favorite, 'Ice Punch', was tested this year only at University of Florida, but it topped the 2007 trials there as well.

Consumer Preferences at NCSU and Homewood Nursery

Of course, as much as consumers tell us they like the novelty cultivars, they are still buying mostly red. Conducting consumer trials at three locations with so many different red cultivars means that there is usually little agreement among the sites. Of the red cultivars, however, 'Cortez Electric Fire' scored well at both NCSU and Homewood. NCSU's surveys were conducted indoors, where the brighter bracts of 'Electric Fire' tend to stand out; however, Homewood's survey took place in the greenhouse. According to most growers, the dark-red bracts continue to be the most popular. The take-home message for retailers might be to offer more than one shade of red, with brighter reds to help the darker reds pop, and vice versa.

'Prestige Red', with its more traditional dark red bracts, was the top red at University of Florida and scored high at Homewood's trials. Certainly the nicely rounded display that is typical of this cultivar shows well in surveys. Rounding out the top reds for NCSU were 'Premium Bright Red', 'Metro Red', 'Christmas Star' and 'Red Elf'. At Homewood Nursery, 'Prestige Red', 'Christmas Spirit', 'Infinity Bright Red' and 'Classic Red' topped the list.

'Merlot' was the top-ranked novelty red at NCSU. It looked particularly good this past year thanks to excellent growing conditions in the Carolinas. 'Carousel Dark Red' also scored high at NCSU and, of course, the Winter Rose types were among the favorites at all three locations. We have been hearing of weaker sales for Winter Rose types for the past couple of years, but they obviously are still rather popular for a novelty cultivar.

In the pink category, 'Polly's Pink' was the cultivar to beat this year, as it was the highest-scoring pink at all three locations. The bright, almost fluorescent, color of the bracts really makes this cultivar stand out.

Among the whites, the typically bright white cultivars continue to be the favorites. 'White Christmas' was the third overall favorite at the NCSU trials, which is unusually high for a white cultivar. At Homewood, 'White Christmas' was also the top white cultivar, but not high enough in the overall listings to make it into the top 15 cultivars we listed in the table.

University of Florida Trial Consumer Results

During the University of Florida Open House, attendees were shown plants by category as indicated in the tables below. The survey was conducted in the greenhouse, and the plants were not named. In every category, participants also had the option of indicating that they did not like any of the plants.

The participants' selection of red plants was spread over several varieties, and there was not a strong single variety. The results from this year's survey of participants' preferences for novelty plants are similar to last year, where 'Ice Punch' was the strong favorite. Similar to results at NCSU, 'Polly's Pink' was the clear favorite among pink varieties for the UF participants.

Novelty red poinsettias are an important category, and the Winter Rose type varieties commonly receive high ranking. 'Chianti' is not a popular variety with growers because of its low vigor. However, as these results show, it can be a strong favorite with consumers. In the past, 'Chianti' also scored high in the trials at NCSU.

Among marble varieties, 'Marblestar' is often the highest-rated variety. It is interesting to see that 17 percent of the participants in the UF survey indicated they did not like marble poinsettias at all. This relatively high negative number from a consumer group that likes poinsettias may be an indicator of why marble varieties are not stronger sellers.

'DaVinci' is one of the leading peppermint varieties in terms of production numbers, and the other varieties included in this question are new introductions. The 21 percent negative number is the highest for the categories in the UF survey. The participants who did select a variety did not show a clear preference.

There is considerable interest in the use of euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' in mixed plantings with poinsettias. An older style of mixed planting has been a bowl with poinsettias in the middle and a ring of white chrysanthemums, ivy or dusty miller around the outside of the container. When mixing poinsettias and 'Diamond Frost', participants demonstrated a clear preference intermixing them, which is more typical of a spring mixed container.

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John Dole and Jim Barrett

John Dole is professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University. Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at University of Florida. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.

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