The new poinsettia cultivars just keep coming. This year we had 24 new and experimental cultivars among the 104 cultivars from the National Poinsettia trials on display in the Ruby C. McSwain Education Center. Of the 170 attendees at the Consumer Open House, 127 took the time to fill out surveys. It was no easy task for the participants because they had so many cultivars from which to choose. To make their job easier we organized the cultivars into six groups: red, pink, white, jingle (red or pink with spots), marble (white with a pink blaze down the center of each bract), and novelties (nice way of saying "everything else"). We asked the consumers to select their three favorite cultivars within each group (Table 1 - included in PDF summary only). We also asked them to select their three overall favorite cultivars – and their three overall least favorite cultivars – from all of the cultivars on display. To help us with interpreting the information, the survey included some biographical information (Table 2 - included in PDF summary only).
The overall favorite...drum roll please...was 'Chianti'. This plant has strikingly dark brick red bracts and bright yellow cyathia (flowers) in the center. In addition to scoring high in the overall vote, half of the attendees (64) listed it as one of the top three favorite red cultivars – quite a feat considering that there were so many red cultivars to choose from. 'Chianti' was also ranked in the top ten in 2003 and scored high in 2004. Close behind 'Chianti' was 'Sonora White Glitter', which was also #2 in 2003, with its boldly colored red and white spotted bracts and dark green foliage.
Among the top ten were several recurring favorites from years past including 'Visions of Grandeur' (#1 in 2004), 'Monet Twilight' (#2 in 2004), and 'Cortez Burgundy' (#4 in 2004 and #1 in 2003). Rounding out the top ten favorites list were 'Winter Rose Early Red', 'Jingle Bells 4.0', 1090 (to be named later this year), 'Christmas Feelings', and 'Dulce Rosa'.
'Dulce Rosa' merits a little more explanation. It is notable as the first commercially available poinsettia hybrid. Up to now the increasingly fantastic array of colors and shapes in poinsettias have all been derived from one species, Euphorbia pulcherrima. 'Dulce Rosa' brings in the genetics of the white bracted Euphorbia cornuta. The result was a vigorous plant with bright – even fluorescent – pink bracts. The bracts start out dark pink and lighten as they age. 'Dulce Rosa' grabbed the attention of many of the attendees – but not always in a positive way. While 'Dulce Rosa' was ranked #6 overall favorite, it was also ranked #2 overall least favorite cultivar. Obviously, opinions were divided on this cultivar – you either loved it or hated it.
Several perennial favorites – actually unfavorites – rounded out the top five least favorite cultivars: 'Limelight' (#1), 'Carousel Red' (#3), 'Carousel Pink' (#4) and 'Avante Garde' (#5). All four of these cultivars have been in the bottom ten cultivars for the last three years. So, I guess people really don't like these plants. Actually, we will let you in on a secret – while we are not supposed to play favorites with the cultivars, I have never taken home a 'Limelight' or 'Avante Garde' in all of the years I have been doing trials.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the people who took the time to fill out surveys. Each year the results are sent back to the poinsettia breeders. Results from previous surveys indicated that consumers continue to prefer dark red bracts – as opposed to the lighter red bracts – and consequently, we have seen darker and darker red poinsettias being produced. Also, thank you very much to all the volunteers who helped us set up, monitor, and take down the displays.
John Dole, Ingram McCall, and the JC Raulston Arboretum
Two tables were originally included with this report. They are available in the PDF summary only.