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by Brian Minter
by Brian Minter


Brian is President of Minter Country Garden, an innovative destination garden center and greenhouse growing operation. He is a gardening columnist, radio host, international speaker and author.

His website is located at

December 28, 2008

Did you know that the poinsettia is now the world's number one potted houseplant? It has certainly come a long way from those early days in the 1950's 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. A number of 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. 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.

One of the most popular varieties is ‘Sonora White Glitter’, a nice red speckled with white flecks. 'Monet' features multi-coloured cranberry red/rose/cream bracts with gradated shades that vary from dark to light tones. Inspired by the work of the famous French impressionist painter, 'Monet' was awarded a blue ribbon, the industry's highest honour, at the 1993 Society of American Florist's New Varieties Competition. The new ‘Monet Twilight’ is a more cranberry coloured variety that is also very beautiful.

One of the new novelties that is really catching fire is the fully double red, white or pink ‘Winter Rose’ that looks quite stunning with its layered double blossoms. It also stands up well in most household conditions. Red or pink ruffled ‘Carousel’ is another variety that is very unique and will certainly catch your attention.

The keys to success with maintaining a poinsettia’s beautiful bright colours are room temperature and careful watering. Keep them near an east or north window with lots of indirect light. Temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius are best. Watering is critical as most poinsettias have weaker root systems that can rot very easily if overwatered. 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 or pets. The only concern is for indoor birds as with any plant that contains sticky sap, which can clog their gullets.

Poinsettias are beautiful, longlasting plants to be enjoyed all through the festive season. Use the many styles, from tiny 'Pixie' table centres to hanging baskets and tree forms to decorate your home this Christmas.

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