Cirque du Poinsettia

Last week I brought up the seasonal topic of poinsettias. There are so many cultivars to start with, it’ll make your head spin.  Twenty five new varieties were introduced in 2009 alone.  One
of the major breeders lists 36 RED varieties.

But for painting and glitter, growers
and retailers stick to “white” (actually a very pale yellow to cream –
see last week’s ‘Polar Bear’ post) or possibly light pink. The trend had a good start in Europe and crossed the pond in 2004. I

n 2005, I toured a Denver area greenhouse and saw my first air-brushed point. They were doing a specialty Broncos theme with bracts sprayed deep blue and orange and plopped into a football-shaped pot (with the season Denver’s having this year, I imagine sales are down).  The “team colors” theme is everywhere now.  Nothing says Christmas like maroon bracts (looked more like dried blood) with orange glitter – the interpretation of a Hokie poinsettia, available at our local Kroger. Different.  Please comment if you’ve seen a weirder color combo (are there Steelers ones yet?!).

Nationally, independent garden centers note they can’t keep pigmented points in stock, despite charging upwards of $9 more for a painted 6” point than a regular one. 

I'll have a bluuue Christmas without yoooooou

Blue poinsettias at McDonald’s Garden Center in Virginia Beach – a best-seller.

I’ve not seen any studies determining if the dye alters the post-harvest longevity or not; anecdotal evidence suggests it doesn’t have much effect. Just don’t splash them with water – the dye will run. Growers are careful to paint only mature poinsettias with fully-expanded bracts, or else suffer the poinsettia equivalent of bad roots (a la Lindsey Lohan). One of best-known of the poinsettia painters is at K&W Greenery of Janesville, Wisconsin.  The owners have carved out their high-end niche by employing an artist to do the air-brushing and glitter-sprinkling, treating each one as an individual work of art.  Art that will die in a heartbeat if you forget to water it, unfortunately. But the mother of all poinsettia growers/retailers in Ellison’s in Brenham, Texas. They’ve turned the season’s opening  each year into a hugely successful, candle-lit, wine-pouring party. The Today Show even stopped by a few years ago. The Ellison’s tree photo has been making its rounds on the internet for so long, I don’t even know who to credit.


Where's the damn partridge

Fa la la la la  (is that enough “la’s”?) 

Whether you take your poinsettias painted, straight up, or not at all – happy holidays!

9 thoughts on “Cirque du Poinsettia”

  1. I once saw a specimen of Poinsettia – an ex-christmas present of many years past, so he told me – in a friend’s garden in Brisbane, Australia (subtropical). It had grown into a large shrub, almost a small tree, but interes
    tingly still displayed the characteristic blood red bracts on the ends of all the branches. The scale of the display was really quite exquisite, I would describe it was boldly dainty. Striking to say the least.

  2. We encourage our children to be enterprising and this is what they come up with. What can we say? What can we do? Like it or not, Americans love things that are fake and are willing to spend lots and lots to have them – fake Christmas trees, artifically colored poinsettas, fake mistletoe, fake vitamins, fake flavorings, fake fat…Oh dear, dear, dear! Too bad, so sad.

  3. My in-laws would have loved the painted poinsettias. They were the WW II generation that thought, “Isn’t science wonderful?” I can buy artificial vanilla, artificial chocolate chips, cheese in a can and formica topped furniture. They liked it all for the novelty effect and that it was a “scientific” discovery but still less expensive than the real thing.

    That poinsettia tree is really quite horrible!

  4. I LOVE painted poinsettias when they’re done well. I like that they can match an existing color scheme or have multicolored drips for a New Year’s party. Best of all in my opinion, it gave retailers a way to draw some much needed attention back to the poinsettia and charge more for it. However, I do agree that a BADLY painted point is laughably hideous 🙂 In regards to the comments about its artificialness – I’ll channel Lee Corso when I say “Not so fast!” There’s not much natural about an UNpainted poinsettia either – it’s bred to have large bracts, tender in most of the areas where they’re sold, and forced to “bloom” out of season in much of the world already. In short, it’s already fake!

  5. I have to agree with Paul. Those blue pointsettias in the picture make me want to go out and buy one even though I never buy them because I can’t stand how easily they break.

  6. This outdoor poinsettia was the size of a large shrub or small tree. I’m not that fond of poinsettias myself, but seeing a photo of it as nature intended made me appreciate it more as a plant.

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