feature story

21st-century poinsettias

Unusual forms, cut varieties, year-round offerings and painting techniques upgrade the traditional holiday poinsettia, raising the potential for increased profit margin.

by Monica Humbard


Over the years, the profit margin on traditional holiday potted poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) has dropped significantly. But enhancements and advancements in the plant itself, as well as new decorative applications, have given these holiday bloomers new life. Consumers have shown their willingness to pay more for poinsettias that are new and unusual. Here are some ideas for upgrading your poinsettia selection.

 
Year-round poinsettias
In Japan and Korea, Euphorbia 'Dulce Rosa' already has experienced acceptance as a year-round potted plant and is being produced and sold in significant quantities. In the United States, its visibility in the spring and early fall market is expected to increase during the next few years. Spring choices will include pastel-colored bracts, and the more intense fall color range will feature orange, red, purple and yellow.



 


‘dulce rosa’
Photo: Paul Ecke Ranch

 

new forms

Miniature poinsettia tree
This 12-inch-tall 'Winter Rose' poinsettia tree is targeted to the corporate market, but it also has many home-decor applications and gift appeal. Display these plants at eye level so consumers can appreciate their unusual form and size.

 




Photo: Peace Tree Farm

 

Column shape
The poinsettia column has a large single bract at the top of the plant, which drapes onto green foliage. Farther down the stem is a circle of smaller bracts. The plant has little spread (about 12 to 14 inches) and is grown in an 8-inch clay pot.

 


Photo: Peace Tree Farm

 

Cut poinsettias
Jack Williams, international products manager at Paul Ecke Ranch, in Encinitas, Calif., says 2006 was the biggest year yet for cut flower poinsettias. He believes this is primarily because of the success of the cut 'Winter Rose Renaissance' poinsettia, which has fewer care and handling concerns as a cut flower as compared to other varieties.

 


'winter rose renaissance’
Photo: Paul Ecke Ranch

 

The 'Jester' poinsettia series, well received by U.S. consumers as a potted plant, is now finding applications as a cut flower, too. Its long-lasting characteristics are similar to the 'Winter Rose Renaissance' series.


'jester’
Photo: Paul Ecke Ranch

 

New potted euphorbia
Until recently, Euphorbia fulgens, commonly known as "scarlet plume" and a close relative of the poinsettia (E. pulcherrima), was bred only as a cut flower. Paul Ecke Ranch, in Encinitas, Calif., now has it in controlled grower trials in Europe and with its breeder in North America as a potted plant. Ecke hopes to have some of the first commercial trials in the market in 2008. Euphorbia fulgens is available in a variety of vibrant colors including red, white, pink, yellow and orange.


 


euphorbia fulgens
Photo: Flower Council of Holland

 


Color treatments

Whether you paint the poinsettias yourself or invite your customers to join in the fun, several products on the market today make it easy to match any decor or desire.

Fantasy Colors, a line of 10 spray dyes from Fred C. Gloeckner & Co. Inc., in Harrison, N.Y., make it easy to customize poinsettias to match a particular home or office decor, pot covers or add-ons. The products, which can be applied at the grower or store levels, work best on white, cream, apricot, light pink and marble poinsettias. Red and pink poinsettias will work with the more intense dark colors. You can follow up all the colors with an application of Gloeckner Clear Glue and glitter to add a bit of sparkle.

Just for Flowers, Colortool(r) and ColorTex sprays from Design Master Color Tool, Inc., in Boulder, Colo., compose the company's Graffiti PetalArt Color Collection. Just for Flowers sprays are translucent colorants that allow the details of poinsettias' bracts to show through while giving them a rich, satin color sheen. Colortool sprays are opaque colorants that hide blemishes and create a uniform appearance. ColorTex adds color and texture in one step. Design Master also offers flower-safe embellishments for natural or colorized poinsettias, including Glitter Spray, Shimmer sprays (Gold and Pearly Dew), and even Floral Fragrance sprays that add scent to the plants.


how to:
Find out how to create the dazzling looks shown here by mousing over each treatment.



Marketing tips: painted poinsettias


When painted with spray colorants, poinsettias can make an earlier appearance in fall displays.

Painted poinsettias are expanding the selling time of the plant as well as its appeal to a younger audience. Andrew Lee, vice president of sales and marketing with Fred C. Gloeckner & Co. Inc., in Harrison, N.Y., says they also give florists an opportunity to raise the price point of poinsettias to "a much-needed" higher level. Mr. Lee says consumers have shown their willingness to pay more for the painted poinsettias. In fact, in some parts of the country, if they take the time to color them well, retailers are getting as much as double the price of the traditional poinsettia.

Here are Mr. Lee's suggestions for effectively marketing painted poinsettias:

1 Nontraditional Holidays: Target nontraditional poinsettia holidays/events such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the new year and birthdays. Some retailers are painting poinsettias to coordinate with the colors of fall mums so they can sell them as early as Halloween.

2 Customization: Offer to customize poinsettias to customers' tastes and needs. Businesses, churches and even some individuals will have different holiday themes each year. By customizing painted poinsettias for them each year, you can build a returning clientele.

3 Family Events: Plan an event for families so they can dye their own plants. Display examples, and have different sizes of poinsettias in neutral colors for decorating. Have staff available to assist customers.

4 Meeting Activity: Offer to work with civic groups, clubs, sports teams or other organizations to plan special events where their members can learn to create their own painted poinsettias.

5 Fund-raisers: Suggest that groups such as Boy Scouts, sports teams or churches purchase the painted poinsettias and sell them as a fund-raiser. Teams can sell poinsettias painted in their team colors and add a pick with the team name. A women's organization could sell pink poinsettias with glitter for a breast cancer fund-raiser.

6 Social Events: Recommend painted poinsettias as a project for a "Girls Night Out" group or an annual holiday luncheon. If you have meeting space available, offer to host the event and provide the snacks, or send a representative with all the necessary materials to the home of the hostess to demonstrate the application methods and help them re-create the techniques.

7 Giveaways: Build interest in painted poinsettias by giving away free plants in a drawing or with the purchase of a certain amount of product from the floral department.

8 Publicity: Alert the media to this unique and interesting new product. Invite them to your holiday open house.


Monica Humbard is a freelance writer residing in Lee's Summit, Mo. You may contact her by e-mail at monhumbard@aol.com.


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