By Drs. Claudio Pasian and Steve Carver
Every year, car manufacturers come out with new models. Some are slight variations of previous models; others may have radical changes. But any change is costly to the car maker. Why do car companies go through such an expensive process? They do it to keep customers’ interest high with the hope of increasing sales. For similar reasons, plant breeders are constantly looking for new cultivars for all traditional floriculture crops. It is essential to keep customers excited and interested. Some of the new cultivars may look very different in shape and color and they may be produced keeping in mind the general public. Others may be similar in looks to cultivars already in the market but may have characteristics that are very attractive to growers for their ease of production or increased profitability.
Poinsettias are no exception. In the last fifteen years, we have seen numerous, exciting changes from what used to be a “traditional” poinsettia cultivar. This is why we, at The Ohio State University and AmericanHort (former OFA), collaborate on a poinsettia rating project that permits growers to know what consumers and fellow greenhouse growers think about the new poinsettia cultivars.
We asked each of the suppliers for their newest cultivars, i.e. in the market for fewer than two years. We also ask for “experimental” cultivars that are not yet in the trade. Some of these experimentals have trade names, others do not. Each supplier is allowed to include four older cultivars for comparative purposes; we call these old cultivars “benchmarks.”
The plants were grown at four locations around Ohio: Barco & Sons, Inc. in Medina; Dill’s Greenhouse, in Groveport (South of Columbus); H.J. Benken, Inc., in Cincinnati; and Bostdorff Greenhouse Acres, in Bowling Green. One plant of each cultivar from each of the growers mentioned above was shipped to the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University and placed in the Howlett Hall greenhouse.
On December 4 and 5, 2013, the horticulture student society PAX held its annual poinsettia sale in the Howlett Hall greenhouse. We asked PAX’s poinsettia buyers to evaluate the poinsettia cultivars that were displayed – with only a number as ID – on the greenhouse benches. We asked the consumers to evaluate the cultivars in two ways. First, we asked them to rate each cultivar (four plants of each cultivar grouped together) on a 1 to 5 scale with “1” meaning that the consumer did not like the cultivar and “5” meaning that they loved it. This rating scheme allows for positive and negative feelings for each cultivar. Second, we asked participants to tell of all cultivars that we had, which were their three favorites. That is, which three (maximum) they would buy on an impulse if they found them while shopping. Results are given in Table 1.
Consumer Evaluation Results
This year, only two cultivars had ratings above 4: ‘Jubilee Jingle Bells’ (4.2), and ‘Christmas Joy’ (4.1). Five other cultivars received ratings of 3.8 (Table 1). ‘Jubilee Jingle Bells’ was also the most selected cultivar (45 times) while the Selecta SK 108 was second with 23 selections. ‘Monet Early’ (EU354S) was third with 18 selections.
In past years, asking evaluators to pick their three favorite cultivars resulted in discrepancies between top rated and top picked. This situation did not happened in 2013: the top rated cultivars were also the top picked ones.
The Jubilee Jingle Bells cultivar was picked by 32.7% of women and 30.3% of men; SK 108 was selected by 14.4% of women and 24.2% of the men.
One final observation from this year’s consumer trial that has been seen in many of our previous year’s trials … based on overall ratings, seven of the ten top rated cultivars were red, but the top rated cultivar was a novelty type.
Grower Evaluation Results
We also asked growers to evaluate the same cultivars. This was done during an open house at each of the three locations where the poinsettia plants were grown. While consumers evaluated a group of plants (one from each grower), the growers evaluated only plants from each location. Pooled results are presented in Table 2.
The cultivar ‘Monet Early’ was rated the highest (3.9) among growers (Table 2). The Dummen cultivar, RF GL 130,1 was picked 8 times as the grower favorite despite receiving a rating of 3.6. ‘Mars Pink’ received a rating of 3.8 and was picked 7 times. In general, growers were harsher than consumers in rating the poinsettias. It is obvious that growers and consumers evaluate the poinsettia plants using different criteria. In these trials that we’ve conducted over the last ten years, we’ve found that it is typical for consumers and growers to have different preferences.
That is our quick take on this year’s results but there is much more information to glean from the trials. What do you see?
Acknowledgments: We thank Lindsay Pangborn, Annuals Trial Manager, and the Chadwick and Master Gardeners volunteers for their help with the consumer evaluation during the PAX poinsettia sale, and the four Ohio growers who grew the plants for the trials.
Click on photo to enlarge.