Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triumphs

Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses has been running poinsettia trials since the mid-2000s, supervising 200 cultivar varieties.
Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses has been running poinsettia trials since the mid-2000s, supervising 200 cultivar varieties.

Ask top poinsettia growers about the plant’s future, and their responses are emphatic: The No. 1 plant of the holiday season is here to stay.

This response comes straight from the source. Each year, Dan Schantz Farm & Greenhouses, Millstadt Young Plants, and Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse trial the industry’s top varieties hoping to learn which will entice their customers every winter. Here’s what each company had to say about its 2015 trials, triumphs, and plans for the future.

Dan Schantz Farm And Greenhouses: Poinsettias Are The Christmas Plant

When it comes to running successful poinsettia trials, it requires teamwork, dedication, and perhaps a grower with superhuman recall. No one knows this better than Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses in Zionsville, PA.

The operation has been running trials since the mid-2000s, supervising 200 cultivar varieties — all with different growing characteristics and habits — each year. This means separating each cultivar by breeder, color, variety, and growing requirements.

How does the operation manage to keep everything straight, even when the chaos of spring takes hold? The farm has a secret weapon in grower Ian Phelps. As the poinsettia point person, Phelps can name a variety simply by looking at it. The trials, though, are more than an experiment in how to build successful organization protocols. Poinsettia trials are an endurance test.

“The trials themselves are not an easy thing to add to an already busy spring and summer schedule, so it is something that needs to be seriously considered before embarking on hosting a trial at your own facility,” says Paul Hardiman, Head Grower at Dan Schantz. “Taking on a trial can be an added expense to the bottom line of a greenhouse operation and requires that growers will have to be dedicated to raising the crop and sticking with it all the way through the trial, which usually happens in November of most years.”

At the end of the trial, however, the company gains first-hand knowledge about how to grow varieties that will perform for and impress its customers. In 2015, the trial judges selected the best red, pink, novelty, and white varieties, also awarding “judge’s favorite” and “best of greenhouse” honors. Hardiman says the standout plants included the Christmas Feelings and Christmas Ribbons series from Selecta, ‘Titan Pink’ from Syngenta, ‘Pallas Red’ from Beekenkamp, and a numbered (but not yet named) variety from Dümmen Orange that was given a “best future possibility” honor. Dan Schantz Farm will likely integrate some or all of these varieties into its production.

In addition to a stellar line-up of poinsettias each year, Michael Foster, Production Assistant at Dan Schantz and mastermind behind the website, PoinsettiaTrial.com, says the trials offer other perks, as well.

“Dan Schantz Farm has hosted the trials, not only for the benefits that it offers us in terms of being able to adjust our regular growing varieties with new introductions that we learn about through the trial,” he says. “But it also allows us to bring together other growers who face these same issues and put them with the breeders who might be able to shed some light on the questions the growers might be facing in their own operations.”

In 2016, Dan Schantz Farm has opted not to take on the responsibilities of a trial. Hardiman says this doesn’t spell the end of the operation’s trials. The decision will be made on a year-to-year basis. Even without the trials, Hardiman and Foster say they believe the plant will continue to be a Christmas-time favorite.

“The future of the poinsettia is probably pretty secure, but presentation of the poinsettia might become more gift-like with decorative sleeves, pot covers that really make each plant very special, and special-buy pots to put the poinsettias in, such as the Santa Boot that was rather popular this year,” Foster says, noting that even with its holiday-season popularity, the crop might not be a fit for every operation.

“For many greenhouses, the poinsettia is a finicky plant to grow, and many of the smaller growers may give up on growing them in their own houses. The slack will be taken up by the larger operations because what would Christmas be without the traditional poinsettia decorating our homes during the season?”

Next: For Millstadt Young Plants, The Future For Poinsettias Is Now

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