They’ve been marbled and spotted, covered in glitter and faux snow. They’ve been tinted bright blue, deep purple and just about every shade in between. They’ve been miniaturized and supersized, made into tree forms and hanging baskets, even bred to look like roses.
And they’re everywhere. This time of year, it seems like you can hardly move without tripping over one.
But, you know what? We love them still. The poinsettia, the once-obscure Mexican beauty, has become not only the de facto flower of Christmas, but the most popular potted plant in the United States and Canada.
“It’s the quintessential plant that everyone gravitates to at the holidays,” says Karen Bachman Thull, director of marketing and corporate communications at Bachman’s.
The local garden center, which has been propagating poinsettias since the 1930s, will turn out upward of 70,000 of the striking plants from its Lakeville greenhouses this holiday season.
Despite their ever-expanding range of colors and styles, “most people want a red poinsettia,” says Lewis Gerten, co-owner/operator of Gertens Greenhouses in Inver Grove Heights.
There will always be novelty poinsettias, Gerten says. Rows or groupings of tiny “pixie” poinsettias (sold in 4-inch pots) are being used as tabletoppers or in “deconstructed” arrangements,” in which poinsettias are used as cut flowers. At the other extreme, massive, many-branched varieties are statement makers for mantelpieces, sideboards and foyers.
While the new generations of poinsettias have been bred to be tougher than the fussy plants of the past, they’re still tropicals. That means, “they’re not as tough as we are,” says Bachman Thull.
When you buy a poinsettia, make sure it’s wrapped and don’t leave it in your cold car while you run errands. Go from garden center to home. Poinsettias thrive in sunny windows, away from doors, ducts and drafts. Check to see whether they need to be watered every other day or so. And when you water them, don’t leave them sitting in a wet pot. Let the water drain away.
That’s all you have to do to keep poinsettias looking good for a long time, possibly longer than you want.
“They’ll stay green as long as you care for them,” says Bachman Thull. “But after the holidays, most people want to be done with holiday plants.”
Unless you’re needing a challenge, don’t try to overwinter them and force them to rebloom next winter; it’s not worth the work. Send them to the composter. You can buy the newest, most improved variety next year. And the year after that. They’ll be around.
“They’re never going to be outdated,” says Gerten. “They’re the Christmas flower.”