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One of the few things that seems likely to be normal about Christmas this year is a poinsettia on the table or the mantel.
Avon Valley Floral in Falmouth will ship 15,000 poinsettias to small florist shops, though they’re not a big money maker.
“Growers will call them poorsettias instead of poinsettias,” said Joanna Gould-Thorpe, vice-president of business development and operations at Avon Valley Floral. “The market will only bear a certain price to sell these at, and it costs a fair bit to grow them because they have a long crop time. These are planted in July, about the 17th of July was when we started planting. With a long crop time like that, there’s a lot of care involved in them and you can’t short circuit that in any way. It eats up costs after a while.”
Poinsettias sold in Atlantic Canada are grown here, but come from mother plants in greenhouses in Ontario.
“Cuttings are taken off those, rooted, and then those rooted cuttings are shipped here and we plant them in the pots and in the soil,” Gould-Thorpe said of the plants that can come in a wide variety of colours but are almost all red. “Red is by far the highest percentage that people want, typically it’s 90 per cent plus of what we grow because that is the classic colour that everybody wants. A few people have a preference for white or variegated or pink, so we grow a little bit of that, but really it’s about red.”
Gould-Thorpe said the wholesale price of poinsettias is up about ten per cent this year, though she declined to say what that price is. She did say the retail price is all over the map, to the point she can’t say with confidence what it will be.
“The volume is up a little bit and price points, I’m sure, will be up,” she said. “Any florist you walk into in any small town in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Newfoundland, they’re probably buying poinsettias from us. That’s our main customer, we do sell to a couple of smaller wholesale markets. You’re not going to see our poinsettias at the big boxes, it’s just not a market that we’re pursuing.”
But it is a market pursued by the Rise and Shine Nursery in St. John's, where 30 thousand poinsettias go out the door each year.
That’s seven greenhouses worth and, as at Avon Valley, at least 90 per cent are red.
“We sell on site ourselves, to some of the local florists, and we sell to Kent. Our biggest market is our own shop,” said Jeannette Putt, whose husband Wayne is the owner of Rise and Shine.
Poinsettia Care Tips
Poinsettias are fragile, rough handling will cause stem and leaf breakage.
Remove the sleeve as soon as you get the plant home.
Do not place a poinsettia where the temperature is below 10C, or near a cool draft.
Poinsettias should be given as much sunlight as possible.
Allow the soil to dry between waterings. Keeping the soil wet, by having the pot sit in a saucer, for example, can cause droopiness and a loss of leaves.
Prices range from $14.50 for a six-inch pot, which is the most popular, to $39 for a ten-inch and $49 for a 14 inch-pot.
Back in Falmouth, Gould-Thorpe said one of the biggest challenges of the poinsettia business is getting them into homes in good shape, describing them as very delicate.
“They don’t like to be cold, and yet they’re not ready until the first week of December. They very quickly will shrivel up on themselves if they get too cold. We select our days for shipping based on watching the weather. So if it’s looking like it’s going to minus 10 overnight, we’ll hold the shipment until we can have a temp that’s a little more positive,” said Gould-Thorpe, calling the transition from a truck into a store the challenge.
“They like room temperature, they don’t mind a few degrees transition. They’re in a box, they’re in a sleeve, the box taped, so they are insulated. We’ve done a variety of tests on whether extra insulation helps or not. It doesn’t. The cardboard box they’re in is good insulation for them.”
Gould-Thorpe, who will have three or four different sized plants on the mantel and a centrepiece on the table for the holidays, said the most common mistake is to water poinsettias too much.
“Don’t love them to death,” she said.
Poinsettia Toxicity Myth
The poinsettia is the most widely tested consumer plant on the market. Research from Ohio State University has proven the poinsettia to be non toxic to both humans and pets. As with any non-food product, the poinsettia is not meant to be eaten and can cause varying degrees of discomfort.
– Avon Valley Floral