Poinsettias May Become Popular For Arrangements
GAINESVILLE—The winter season’s best-selling plant may have a new niche in the holiday floral market by next December, says a University of Florida researcher.
UF horticulturist Jim Barrett is evaluating new varieties of poinsettias that have been developed specifically for use as cut flowers for floral arrangements. Poinsettias, he said, generally have not been used for arrangements because they did not have the staying power florists need.
Poinsettia breeders think they have solved that problem and have turned to Barrett for research on how producers, florists and customers need to treat poinsettias to get the best performance out of them as cut flowers.
“Poinsettias have not been available to florists as cut flowers for holiday arrangements,” Barrett said. “Florists for years have tried to use poinsettias in arrangements, but they haven’t worked well.
“Now, some of the new types we’re evaluating will make very good cut flowers, and we’re getting many of them to last two weeks,” Barrett said. “We anticipate a rapid increase in the poinsettia’s use as a cut flower.”
Of the 92 varieties UF researchers are evaluating this year, 33 are brand new. Some are so new they still need names. One — purple — is a color never before seen in poinsettias.
The new colors and varieties are off the scale on oohs and ahhs when rated by consumers, Barrett said. But when they vote with their wallets, more consumers choose red.
About 75 percent of the red poinsettias sold in the South are a variety introduced 10 years ago called Freedom Red, which Barrett said has become the standard poinsettia. The variety was a breakthrough in developing a versatile plant that grows well, ships well and adapts well to the home environment.
Gradually, however, consumers are warming up to the novelty colors and styles in poinsettias. Winter Rose, a poinsettia with curled bracts that look more like a rose than a poinsettia, is gaining in popularity this year, following its introduction last year.
“The public is really responding to the changes,” Barrett said. “Reds account for 75 to 80 percent of all sales, but people always seem to be interested in the new poinsettias.”
To date, there are about 175 varieties of poinsettias, with dozens introduced each year. Not all varieties are commercially important, but with poinsettias selling wholesale at the rate of $300 million per year nationally, breeders have ample incentive to keep working on new varieties.
“Poinsettias are by far the biggest single holiday flowering crop,” Barrett said, “selling more than roses at Valentine’s Day or Easter lilies in the spring.”
Advice to consumers who like the newest varieties: Ask for them now so they will be ready next winter. Growers plan their crops a year in advance, so next holiday’s poinsettias will be planted soon.