Picking Popular Poinsettias By John Dole, Jim Barrett and Allen Hammer

Find out if the poinsettias you are growing or plan to grow will be popular with consumers.

If only we knew what consumers wanted. Imagine being able to order and grow only the cultivars needed in the quantities required. Since that isn’t possible, we try to do the next best thing — decide what the consumers want through marketing surveys. In this year’s National Poinsettia Trials we evaluated more than 120 poinsettia cultivars from five companies. All four trial locations, White River Gardens/Purdue University, University of Florida, North Carolina State University and Homewood Nursery and Garden Center. conducted marketing surveys with attendees.

The Trials

Because each trial is set up differently, we wanted to give you a brief overview of each one before moving on to the results. Please be aware that different data were collected at each trial, as this might impact how closely the results can be compared.

University of Florida. At the University of Florida the consumer open house was held on Dec. 9, 2004 in the greenhouse where the plants were set up for the grower field day. That day, the undergraduate students sold plants they grew, and many of the consumers came planning to purchase them. There were approximately 450 attendees, and 328 useable surveys were collected. For the first three questions, represented in Figures 1-3, right, individual plants were placed on a separate bench without names. For the fourth question, represented by Figure 4, page 34, participants selected their favorites from the variety trial where four plants of each variety were lined up in a row with the name of the variety.

Purdue University. For the Purdue consumer survey, plants were moved to White River Gardens in Indianapolis, Ind., and shown in a conservatory greenhouse there on (DATE). There were approximately 1,050 participants in the survey. Results are shown in Figures 5-7, page 34. Appreciation is expressed to the staff of White River Gardens for their support and cooperation in conducting this survey.

Homewood Nursery and Garden Center. Forty cultivars were placed on display in the garden center in Raleigh, N.C., and customers were asked to select their five favorites without ranking them. More than 700 votes were received, and results are shown in Figure 8, page 36.

North Carolina State University. The North Carolina State University survey is conducted at a Consumer Open House on Sunday after the grower day on (Dec. 2, 2004). The plants Á were moved to a display area in the JC Raulston Arboretum and shown with names. There were 250 attendees and 178 useable surveys. The consumers were asked to select their three favorite cultivars within each of eight groups of cultivars: overall favorite and favorite within color groupings of red, pink, white, jingle bells, marble and novelties. Results, as shown in Figures 9 and 10, pages 36 and 38, are the top five or 10 choices in each group.

What Consumers Told Us

Consumers at all of the trials love ‘Monet Twilight’ and ‘Cortez Burgundy’. Both cultivars have been available for a couple years now and have become established favorites. ‘Monet Twilight’ and ‘Cortez Burgundy’ are now perennial favorites, scoring well in consumer trials ever since they were introduced. In fact, at the University of Florida, ‘Monet Twilight’ and ‘Cortez Burgundy’ were the top two cultivars when participants were asked to choose among all the cultivars. Obviously, any grower focusing on novelties would want to grow these cultivars.

Surprisingly, two new cultivars took the “top prize” in three of our surveys: ‘Shimmer Surprise’ and ‘Visions of Grandeur’. ‘Shimmer Surprise’ received the most votes at Homewood and in one of the studies at the University of Florida. ‘Shimmer Surprise’ is a Á striking combination of large white and pink patches and spots on bright red bracts. In addition to ranking high overall, it also ranked as one of the top five favorite jingle bells types at NC State. ‘Visions of Grandeur’ was the winner at NC State and number two for Purdue University. ‘Visions of Grandeur’ is equally striking, with large, upright, pale pink bracts that darken as they age. While we placed Visions in the novelty section, it could have been placed with the pinks and would have attracted attention there as well. ‘Visions of Grandeur’ also ranked a respectable number 13 in Homewood’s trials and number nine among all the cultivars at the University of Florida.

Of course, the problem with poinsettia surveys is that while consumers tend to vote for the striking and unusual, they tend to purchase red. If given a choice, ‘Merlot’ would be the red poinsettia that many of our consumers would buy, or at least that’s what our surveys reveal. ‘Merlot’ has dark-red bracts with even darker young bracts, which makes this cultivar really stand out. ‘Merlot’ was the highest ranked red at University of Florida, number two at NC State, number three at Purdue University and number 17 at Homewood.

Interestingly, while most poinsettia cultivars have dark-red bracts, ‘Happy Christmas’ with its bright orange-red bracts attracted a lot of attention. Among reds, ‘Happy Christmas’ placed number three at NC State and number four at University of Florida. Another cultivar with orange-red bracts, ‘Cortez Electric Fire’, also placed well in the trials.

Overall, other highly ranked reds among all the cultivars at University of Florida were ‘Chianti’ (number 12) and ‘Max Red’ (number 15), and among just the reds were Selecta SK36 (number two), ‘Prestige Red’ (number three) and ‘Mars’ (number five). For White River Gardens/Purdue University the highest reds were ‘Orion Red’ (number six), ‘Mars’ (number eight) and ‘Chianti’ (number 14) and among just the reds were ‘Gala Red’ (number one), ‘Mars’ (number two), ‘Autumn Red’ (number three), ‘Olympus’ (number four) and ‘Early Á Orion’ (number five). At Homewood ‘Novia’ (number four), ‘Chianti’ (number 11), ‘Christmas Star’ (number 13), ‘Olympus’ (number 13 tie) and ‘Independence Red’ (number 15) placed high. For NC State the highest red cultivars overall were Dümmen 10306-RF2423 (number three), a trial cultivar, and ‘Cortez Dark Red’ (number 12). When only red cultivars were compared, the most popular cultivars were Dümmen 10306-RF2423 (number one), ‘Prestige Red’ (number three, tie) and ‘Sonora Dark Red’ (number three, tie).

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John Dole, Jim Barrett and Allen Hammer

John Dole is professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University, Jim Barrett is professor of floriculture at University of Florida and Allen Hammer is professor of floriculture at Purdue University. They can be reached by E-mail at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.

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