Trial Results for 2015 Poinsettia Introductions By Jim Barrett, John Dole and Wayne Brown

How did these 15 new varieties perform and how will they fit into the poinsettia market?

The North American Poinsettia Trials provide an independent evaluation of new poinsettia cultivars in three different climates — Ontario, North Carolina and Florida. Included here is information on the characteristics of the 15 cultivars being introduced this year and how they performed in the different locations. We include our ideas on how the cultivars will fit in the poinsettia market. While most of the new experimental cultivars in the trials were red, only five of these are being moved forward to the market in 2015. Particularly important this year are several new novelty cultivars that performed well in the trials and will add more diversity to this important category. The North American Poinsettia Trials are sponsored by the poinsettia breeder and marketing companies. We would not be able to generate this information without their support.

Red Cultivars

Astro Red‘ (Beekenkamp) is an attractive plant with an appearance generally similar to Saturnus Red except that bracts are larger. The heart-shaped bracts are a rich bright Christmas red, have a smooth surface and lie flat. The large centers have nine to 12 showy cyathia with nice distinctive yellow and green colors. Branching is good with a medium V shape. Elongation of laterals is uniform and forms a generally flat top to the plants with most of the bracts at top of the canopy. Stem strength is above average and plant vigor is low to medium. Finish timing in Florida was early – Nov. 10 to 15 — but was Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 in Ontario. ‘Astro Red’ could be used in 4- to 8-inch sizes.

Christmas Aurora‘ (Ball/Selecta) has medium-sized dark leaves and medium to large, dark red, heart-shaped bracts. Bract surface is slightly rippled. The centers are small, and bracts are held up above the canopy-forming an appearance where bracts are almost cupped around the cyathia. Stem strength is good. However, in Florida shoot growth was variable and some plants had a few dominant shoots, while branching was excellent and uniform in North Carolina and Ontario. The centers generally had few cyathia, but did vary in size and number of cyathia. Plant vigor was low, and the plant will do best in smaller containers. Plants flowered mid to late season.

Christmas Tradition‘ (Ball/Selecta) is a good name for this cultivar. It is a large, nice looking plant suited well for later markets with a finish time of about Dec. 1 to 10. Because of the naturally late finish, this cultivar may not be suited for cool finishing temperatures. Bracts are medium sized and bright red with colorful cyathia. The growth habit of this cultivar varied among the three trial locations. In Ontario, the plants had large upright caliper stems. In Florida and North Carolina, a weakness of the plants was a tendency for shoots to grow out to the side of the plant. Plants were stronger in Florida than in North Carolina where the plants did not show well due to the cramped, tight bract display and uneven branching. The plants are very vigorous and may require a considerable amount of PGRs. With use of support rings, this variety can be used in 6.5 to 10-inch pots.

Hera Red‘ (Beekenkamp) is another attractive cultivar with good potential for later markets with a finish time of about Dec. 1 to 10. Plants have medium size, dark red, elongated bracts and dark green leaves. Centers are slightly open and have six-nine showy cyathia. The bracts are slightly rippled and lie flat. Branching and shoot growth is uniform with a V shaped habit. Plant shape is uniformly round with a generally flat canopy. Plants have medium to high vigor. With strong stem strength, this cultivar can be used in a wide range of formats from 4- to 10-inch containers.

Red Soul‘ (Dümmen/Ecke) has a rounded plant appearance and very dark green leaves and large dark bluish red bract color. The slightly rippled bracts are held up on top of the plant. Size of centers and number of cyathia varied among plants. Branching was not uniform, but stem thickness was good. Plants have low vigor, but should work fine up to a 61/2-inch format. Plants flowered early to mid-season in North Carolina and mid to late season in Ontario.

Colors and Novelty Cultivars

Titan White’ (Syngenta) is a new white to go with ‘Titan Red’. The color of the medium to large-sized bracts is cream white. General appearance and growth habit matches ‘Titan Red’. However, in North Carolina and Florida, ‘Titan White’ was slightly less vigorous, and had slightly reduced stem strength. ‘Titan White’ flowered early season and was well matched in flowering to ‘Titan Pink’ and ‘Titan Red’. This cultivar will be useful for those growers using ‘Titan Red’.

Titan Pink‘ (Syngenta) has bright pink bracts with darker veins so the vein pattern stands out. The numerous cyathia have pink tones that match the bract color. Bract color does not fade or turn as gray in the older bracts as with many other pink cultivars. Transition bracts were generally well colored and showed well. Stem strength and vigor was similar to that of ‘Titan Red’ at all three sites. Also, like ‘Titan Red’, this cultivar has smaller than average dark leaves and the habit can be a little uneven. Plants flowered early season and were well matched in flowering to ‘Titan Red’ and ‘Titan White’. ‘Titan Pink’ will be a good fit with the Titan series, but it also could be used as a stand-alone pink for those who like the unique appearance of the bracts.

Christmas Party‘ (Ball/Selecta) is distinctive with a very soft pink bract appearance. The bracts are held up and slightly turned on edge, which contributes to the soft appearance. The medium-sized bracts have a smooth surface and color is uniform for different aged bracts. Centers were open with only four to six medium-sized cyathia in Ontario and Florida but were tighter with more cyathia in North Carolina. The weakness in this cultivar is that the branching and stem strength is less uniform than desired. ‘Christmas Party’ has low to medium vigor and probably will be most useful in 41/2-inch pots or 6- to 61/2-inch pots with rings. Finish time varied from mid to late November.

Christmas Beauty Queen (Ball/Selecta) has the flecked bract appearance similar to Early Monet and Premium Picasso. This is a popular novelty style with consumers, so this cultivar will be a great novelty addition to the Christmas Beauty series. The plants have a very similar growth habit and vigor as ‘Christmas Beauty Red’. Plants flowered mid- to late-season, about a week later than ‘Christmas Beauty Red’ in North Carolina and about two weeks later in Ontario. Similar to ‘Christmas Beauty Red’, this cultivar may do better in warmer climates where it can be used from 4-inch up to 8-inch containers with adequate vegetative growth time in the schedule.

Jingle Bell Rock‘ (Dümmen/Ecke) has a dramatic appearance with a bright red background color and a blaze of white along the midvein. Consumer interest for this cultivar has been very strong, and it has the potential to be even more important than ‘Red Glitter’. Plants have very strong stems, excellent branching and a wide V shape. Vigor is medium to high and they can be used in a wide range of formats. There are two concerns for this cultivar, with the first being that it flowers relatively late, similar to ‘Red Glitter’. Secondly, the amount of sporting is relatively high with many white bracts and many other bracts showing only a “normal’ red glitter appearance without the white blaze. Also, there was sporting to an all-white plant. The breeder and cutting producers will have to work hard to keep sporting at a manageable level for the growers; but few consumers expressed concern about the variability. In the Florida student sale, except for the white plants, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ sold out before the ‘Red Glitter’ plants started selling.

Peppermint Ruffles‘ (Dümmen/Ecke) is a large plant with large ruffled peppermint bracts as the name would suggest. The distinctive lush appearance is appealing to some consumers. The ruffled look is created by the wavy bract margins. Bracts have a lighter color than other peppermint types. The centers are open with large cyathia. ‘Peppermint Ruffles’ has high vigor, only medium strength stems, and a wide habit, so they can be fairly soft if allowed to get too large without adequate support. This growth habit is potentially a greater problem in warm climates. Among current cultivars, the habit of this plant most closely matches ‘Vison of Grandeur’ but is more compact. Plants flowered by mid-November, which is useful because of the demand for early novelty cultivars. In a cool greenhouse, the plants held up well after finish in Ontario. Studies in Florida indicate that it does not heat delay.

Autumn Leaves‘ (Dümmen/Ecke) opens a new category in poinsettias. As indicated by the name, the bracts resemble the color of leaves in the fall. The bracts have a rich yellow color with small pink flecks. The amount of pink coloration is very slight in the first transition bracts and becomes greater as the smaller bracts develop. The yellow color deepens with age as well. Two important traits of ‘Autumn Leaves’ are that it is very low vigor and that it initiates and finishes early. Finish time is early November. Therefore, it is necessary to include adequate vegetative growth time in the crop schedule. This is an even greater issue in cooler climates. If given enough time to grow, the plants have good branching and stem strength and form an upright habit. Florida studies indicate that it does not heat delay. The plants have good resistance to Botrytis and excellent postharvest durability. ‘Autumn Leaves’ can be grown in both cooler and warmer climates. It can be used in 4- to 61/2-inch containers and also as a straight-up, but again vigor is very low. ‘Autumn Leaves’ will be useful for growers wanting to expand the market during the fall and Thanksgiving period.

Luv U Pink (Dümmen/Ecke) has been used in October and spring markets for three or four years. Now cuttings will be available for use in the poinsettia market. This is a hybrid and has characteristics different from traditional poinsettias, including numerous small flat bracts. Bract color is a brilliant pink that will be deeper if plants are finished under cooler temperatures. ‘Luv U Pink’ continues producing new layers of bracts, and it can be held and marketed over a longer period then most poinsettias. The plants can be sold with a few bracts in early to mid-November or held seven to 14 days longer when the plants will have multiple layers of bracts. However, it does not develop many cyathia, and those that do develop tend to drop quickly before opening. It is not unusual for ‘Luv U Pink’ cuttings to split early, but both the split and not split cuttings make nice plants. The plants are vigorous and require more growth regulation. Growth habit and shoot length are not uniform, which along with the small leaves results in plants that do not have a full uniform canopy expected of traditional poinsettia cultivars. While this is not a typical style or color for use at Christmas, the striking color creates significant interest with consumers. At the UF student sale the past two years, customer demand for this cultivar was greater than for any other non-red poinsettia. ‘Luv U Pink’ can be used as a pinched plant in all of the common sizes from 4 to 10 inches with proper growth regulator use.

Princettia Dark Pink‘ (Dümmen/Ecke) is also new for the poinsettia market. This hybrid plant branches very well and can even be grown without pinching. The plants are very low vigor, with a uniform, mounded habit. The plants have a large number of small bract clusters covering the plant canopy. Bracts are small and dark pink. The color is not as bright as in ‘Luv U Pink’ and the two cultivars have distinctly different growth habits. At the UF student sale, customers purchased this plant, but demand was not as great as for ‘Luv U Pink’. Plants show color and flower quickly, but also hold well on the bench due to continued bract development. ‘Princettia Dark Pink’ is very good for 4- to 5-inch containers and makes a nice 61/2-inch plant if given enough crop time.

Princettia Max White(Dümmen/Ecke) is a hybrid with a true white bract color that is much better than any of the poinsettias. In fact, the color is as white as a sheet of paper. The bracts are small and, like ‘Princettia Dark Pink’, continue developing as the plants get older. Different from ‘Princettia Dark Pink’, Max White is a vigorous and more upright plant. The branching is good, but stem strength is average. The plants can be controlled with growth
regulator spray and drench applications. Consumers respond to this pure white color, and Max White will potentially be important for growers in differentiated markets. Cuttings may spilt early, but pinching below the split creates a normal branched plant habit. This cultivar can be used in 4- to 8-inch containers, but it is important to control growth and provide adequate support in larger sizes. Max White flowers quickly and is an early season cultivar, but due to continued bract development, it holds well on the bench.

Jim Barrett, John Dole and Wayne Brown

Jim Barrett is professor of horticulture at University of Florida and can be reached at jbarrett@ufl.edu. Wayne Brown is greenhouse floriculture specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and can be reached at wayne.brown@ontario.ca. John Dole is professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University and can be reached at john_dole@ncsu.edu.