Trials Help Poinsettias Get New Look for the Holidays

December 21, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Most of them are red and heart-shaped. But others are white, pink, red-orangey, peachy, lime or red with white speckles, and look more like a rose, a carnation or a holly leaf.

 

Poinsettias, by any other color, pattern or shape, are still America’s favorite holiday flowers. But just like in the automobile business, new poinsettia “models” are bred each year for growers and buyers to either embrace or reject.

That’s why Ohio State University floriculture experts conduct annual poinsettia trials in which both producers and consumers rate the new arrivals — providing direction to nurseries on what to offer in the coming year and giving the public a chance, perhaps, to pick the next holiday star.

“Every year there are new cultivars (cultivated varieties) of poinsettias, and most of the time they have a different look,” said Claudio Pasian, a scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and a floriculture specialist with Ohio State University Extension. “Breeders do this to keep consumers interested in the product. It’s the same reason car manufacturers come up with new models each year.”

Consumer evaluations take place in early December on Ohio State’s Columbus campus, during the annual poinsettia sale by Pi Alpha Xi (horticulture honor society) students. Buyers who attend the three-day sale are asked to rate each new cultivar — about 50 of them, many of which are so new they don’t even have names — on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being “do not like it” and 5 being “like it a lot.” They are also asked to choose their favorites: up to three cultivars they would buy on an impulse if they found them while shopping.

Last year, “Visions of Grandeur” — a very elegant, light-pink poinsettia — was one of the top-rated cultivars at 4.1 and also the buyers’ undisputed favorite. A red, more traditional-looking poinsettia, “Christmas Spirit” also obtained a 4.1 score but was only sixth among the favorites. “Sonora White Glitter” — a showy plant that sports bright-red leaves with white speckles — got a 3.9 score and was the buyers’ second favorite poinsettia.

“‘Sonora White Glitter’ has been a favorite for the past three years,” Pasian said. “Another interesting example is ‘Winter Rose,’ which looks more like a rose than a poinsettia. When this cultivar was first evaluated, the growers said they didn’t like it. But a good portion of the consumers said they liked it and has since become a popular product in the market. This has made the growers more aware of the importance of consumer evaluations.”

Also conducted in early December, grower evaluations are done through open houses at four major poinsettia-producing Ohio nurseries. Pasian said growers pay attention to other characteristics consumers don’t see, such as early bloom, how long the blooms last, plant health condition, etc. “These trials give growers the opportunity to actually see what these new cultivars look like, as opposed to just looking at them in breeder catalog pictures,” he pointed out.

Results for the 2005 evaluations will be available online in January at http://floriculture.osu.edu (click on “Cultivar trials”). Past evaluations, including cultivar photos, can also be found on this Web site.

Poinsettias are one of the main floriculture crops in Ohio, which ranks as one of the top flower-producing states in the country, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

OARDC and OSU Extension are part of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Author(s): 
Mauricio Espinoza
Source(s): 
Claudio Pasian