The following informational column was submitted to the Tri-City News from Brian Minter — master gardener, best-selling author, Order of Canada recipient and co-owner of Minter Country Garden Store.
Did you know that, for years now, the poinsettia has been the world's number one potted houseplant?
It has certainly come a long way from those early days in the 1950s when it was a real challenge to keep the leaves on the plants for a few weeks, let alone until Christmas!
Today it is hard to keep up with the many new poinsettia varieties that are developed each year.
The wonderful thing about all the newer varieties is their great resilience and longevity. They tend to hold their beautiful colour well into spring and can be brought back into bloom the following year.
I’ve always kept in touch with some of the major poinsettia breeding companies — it’s fun to see what’s going to be appearing next.
In a never-ending quest for the perfect plant, poinsettias now come in an ever-increasing range of styles and shades from red, pink and white to marbled bi-colours.
Several varieties have been developed that are significantly unique and well worth pointing out as substantial improvements over some of the older varieties.
In spite of the plethora of new colours and bract forms, red is still the most popular colour.
Again, this is partly because of tradition, but also because there are so many new red varieties with a wide range of shading from orange-reds to the almost black-reds.
The foliage has changed too, becoming far darker to match some of the deep rich red bracts. Even though the red varieties are the main course, without the spice of novelties, poinsettias would soon slip down on the Christmas menu.
Here are some of the exciting new varieties.
‘Ice Crystal’ and ‘Picasso’ from Dummen Orange have a nice bicolour effect of red shading to pink and white.
Many of the new whites now come in creams and shades of soft yellow as well as the pure white ‘Alpina’, ‘Polar Bear’ and ‘Premium White’.
‘Golden Glo’ is one of the first true yellows. ‘Autumn Leaves’ is a unique salmon colouration. ‘Red Glitter’ has always been a nice red, speckled with flecks of white.
One of my favourites is a nice orange found in both ‘Orange Glow’ and Dummen Orange’s ‘Norwin Orange’. There’s also a nice burgundy variety appropriately named ‘Merlot’.
The newest poinsettia varieties are the ‘Princettias’. Originally meant to be used outdoors in summer, they have found a lot of fans because of their beautiful shades of pink, dark pink and white. Dummen Orange’s version of Princettias are the ‘J’Adore’ series, which has bracts that are almost velvety in their appearance and their colours are extremely vibrant.
Another variety that has really caught fire is the fully double red, white or pink ‘Winter Rose Dark Red’ that looks quite stunning with its layered double blossoms. It stands up well in most household conditions.
The keys to success with maintaining a poinsettia’s lovely bright colours are room temperature and careful watering.
Keep them near an east or north window with lots of indirect light. Temperatures between 15–20° Celsius are best. Watering is critical because most poinsettias have weaker root systems that can rot very easily if over-watered. The trick is to water them well, then let them dry out. By picking up the plant and feeling its weight, you can easily tell if it’s dry or wet. Always use warm water to avoid shocking the plant.
An old myth that still needs to be dispelled is the alleged poisonous label given poinsettias. Beyond any doubt, they are not poisonous to people. The only concern is for indoor birds as with any plant that contains sticky sap, which can clog their gullets.
Poinsettias are beautiful, long-lasting plants to be enjoyed all through the holiday season.
Add a festive flair to your homes this Christmas by decorating with the many wonderful colours and styles of poinsettias, from tiny 'Pixie' table centres to hanging baskets and tree forms.