Gilding the Poinsettia

Gilding the Poinsettia
Painted poinsettias make delightful cut flowers. The question is whether painting and frosting these plants will turn out to be a short-lived fad.

This practice started in Europe where the plants were very well received. Eventually, some American greenhouse owners began dipping their toes into the water in the past few years. In December 2004, the plants got a lot of attention in the American press.

Some people seem to have reacted negatively, and have indicated this is a silly idea. But personally, I don’t see this is any different than dyeing carnations or mums, which no one seems to mind. In fact, these unnatural colors are as much in demand as the true colored ones. The same is true for colored heathers, which have been available in the British Isles for some years. At craft stores, we can buy artificially colored eucalyptus for everlastings.

I prefer to think of it as enhancement. This gives consumers more choices so they can buy ones to use as cut flowers that will complement their Christmas color schemes.

Through a lot of hard work, poinsettia plant breeders have extended the natural color palette to some surprising shades. Starting with the ordinary red ones, they have been able to create pinks, creams, whites, purples, yellows, and even green. But some colors can probably never be achieved in this way, such as blue and true orange. That’s where the paints and glitter come in handy. What has been obvious in recent years is that people are expanding holiday colors to include purples, blues, and other non-traditional shades.

The special sprays are applied to light colored poinsettias. These sprays come in a wide array of colors, including gorgeous blues, golden orange, various shades of yellow, fuchsia, apricot, lilac, and turquoise. With extra effort, multiple hues can be used on the same plant to create a bicolor effect.

At Christmas, glitter can be seen everywhere. So why not on poinsettias? Some greenhouses now apply glitter to the plants, and this only increases their value as holiday decorations.

The spray and glitter are especially formulated to be non-toxic to the plants. The painted last just as long as the unpainted.

Eventually if Christmas sales of painted poinsettias continue to be successful enough, greenhouse growers might venture even further to create specially painted ones for other holidays. What would be more patriotic than a true blue poinsettia for July 4th? Orange poinsettias would really be very useful for fall. It is hard to find enough autumn-hued flowers for Halloween.

Painted poinsettias usually sell for a premium price. But that makes sense. They meet the consumer’s need for something a little different at a time when regular poinsettias can be bought dirt cheap. In fact, the price of poinsettias has been totally unaffected by inflation. If only we could say that was true for gasoline or medical care. In other words, poinsettias are bargain priced. Reflect on that for a moment. In the mid-1970’s, I recall buying a really decent loaf of whole grain bread at A & P for 25 cents a loaf. Compare that to the current price, at least $2.50. Yet, the common poinsettia now sells for $3 to $4 or so.

As consumers are increasingly willing to go upscale, greenhouses are trying to offer distinctive plants that stand out from the crowd.

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