Poinsettias are coming into their season, so let's see what's new and good about them this year by checking in with Head Grower Oliver Storm.
You may have heard that poinsettias were discovered in Mexico by the American ambassador there, a guy named Poinsett. And since then it's become the quintessentially American holiday plant, only now gaining a small market in Europe. Today the seedlings are grown as close to the Equator as possible - in African and Central America - because that's where there's no change in day length, so the plants can be grown all year. (So, yet another example of day length being the prime factor, when all along I thought it was temperature!)
Dulce Rosa (L) and Ice Punch (R)
This year Oliver and his team grew 70,000 poinsettias, 50 varieties in all, the majority to retailers and large customers like institutions and businesses. Oh, and lots of churches. Shown here are some of the new varieties that are up and coming in the plant world.
I asked Oliver to go ahead and show some horticultural pride and tell us why he recommends his poinsettias and here's his answer: They're fresh, right out of the greenhouse, so naturally they last longer. And importantly, there are more plants in each pot, and more blooms on each plant. And while most growers concentrate a good 80 percent on reds only, we grow just 65 percent reds and offer more choices. The lesson here? That red is SO dominant as the number one customer choice - still - that it's considered wild-eyed to only devote 65 percent of your greenhouses to that one color. So American holiday traditions change ever so slowly, like all good traditions.
Ruby Frost is SO popular this year, it actually sold out early. And decorators are using Orange Spice a lot this year for their clients wanting something different.
If you've never tried white, this may be the year for you - if you're a fan of polar bears. Because Ecke, the world's largest grower of poinsettia cuttings, contributes a portion of its sales of Polar Bear poinsettias to Polar Bears International, a conservation organization. Cool.
Read More About Pointsettias
Do's and dont's in the home, how to get them to rebloom, are they poisonous, and more, here on the Ecke website. And Baltimore Sun reporter Susan Reimer visited with Oliver and annuals grower Kerry Kelley recently and did her usual bang-up job reporting the story - click here to read her report.