Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the Poinsettia! At least, that's what many of our customers tell us after visiting our annual Poinsettia Walks, now approaching their 15th year.
The poinsettia season in fact begins as far back as March, when orders are placed for the oncoming season. Cuttings are taken from the mother plants in Ethiopia and flown to specialist growers in Germany to be rooted and delivered for the end of June.
As soon as these arrive on the nursery it's a frantic job to get them potted as soon as possible, as they don't like to hang around! Pots are filled mechanically with fibrous compost with added bark and perlite to help fast rooting - the free drainage structure is essential so that the plants do not become too wet.
After about two weeks, the plants are sprayed to harden the tips, then a few days later they're pinched back to 5-6 leaves to encourage branching. As soon as the new growth is 4-5 cm long, a dwarfing agent is given to even the growth of the shoots. The plants should be growing quickly now during the summer months and we'll adjust their spacing on the benches a total of three times.
Although poinsettias like to be kept warm they don't like to have the hot sun on them. In the glasshouses we have installed screens that give 60% shade during the day but also help to retain a night time temperature of 20°C. The temperature is kept at this level until the bracts (the coloured leaves) are of a sufficient colour, then it is slowly reduced to harden them for sale.
I've selected the poinsettia I produce as the best varieties I can find, plus a few new introductions. As you might expect, red is the most popular, but there are dozens of other colours including apricot, aubergine, marbled, pink, or two-tone like Ice Crystal.
"I've selected the poinsettia I produce as the best varieties I can find, plus a few new introductions."
Poinsettias are not that hard to look after. Make sure you start off with a healthy plant, checking there are no yellow leaves around the bottom or on the plant as this might show the plant has been in its sleeve a long time. Also check there is no damage to the coloured bracts.
When you get it home place in a warm draught-free place, don't water it too much and don't let it dry out and it should last well into the New Year.
Poinsettia Walks at Summerfield Nurseries are a chance to see the huge range of poinsettias we produce and perhaps take home the colours that you might not see anywhere else. Please come along and have a look: entrance is free, or a donation to Pilgrims Hospice.
Grahame Sear owns Summerfield Nurseries, near Sandwich in Kent. Poinsettia Walks at the nursery take place on Wednesdays throughout November, plus Sunday November 27th and December 4th 2011.