by BRIAN MINTER
December 5, 2001
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 plant until Christmas!
Today it is hard to keep up with the many new poinsettia varieties that are developed each year. In a never ending quest for the perfect plant, poinsettias now come in an ever increasing range of colours and styles. Over the past few years, a number of varieties have been developed which are significantly unique and well worth pointing out as substantial improvements over some of the older varieties.
'Freedom', the number one red variety today in North America, is the first to mature. It has very rich dark green leaves, and its long, pointed bracts keep turning red all through the season. 'Freedom' stands up well under all kinds of adverse conditions. It's a keeper!
Right behind 'Freedom' is an European variety from Fisher's called the 'Cortez Series' which also has dark green foliage and very distinct stunning red bracts with flower buds that hold right through the season. They mature a little later than 'Freedom' which is great because they look perky and fresh as the season progresses.
The 'Sonora Series' is another delightful late variety from Fisher that has a more traditional oak leaf bract with deep red foliage and again, dark leaves. They too hold their centres and keep well beyond Christmas.
Fisher’s new space age varieties are also creating a stir. ‘Nova’, ‘Orion’ and ‘Galaxy’ are all fabulous reds with very dark foliage and stunning red bracts. ‘Orion’ seems to be the future here.
Breeding really great pink poinsettias has been a bit of a challenge. The old variety, 'Hot Pink Hegg' has had the best pink color but I'm delighted with a newer variety, a dusty pink called 'Pink Peppermint'. This novel, soft-salmon pink, with slight rose flecks, has huge colour bracts. A southern climate variety, 'Pink Peppermint' stands up well in a high light, warm, humid environment. The newest pinks are 'Freedom Pink', 'Cortez Pink' and 'Sonora Pink'. They have dark green foliage, great vigour, and their pink colour is certainly improving.
For a pure white, the old timer 'Hegg Top White' has been replaced by ‘Freedom Cortez’ and ‘Sonora White’ which are beautiful, but more creamy yellow rather than a pure white. ‘White Star’ is my choice as the best pure white so far.
Eckespoint 'Jingle Bells' has long been one of my favourite varieties because of its unusual colour patterns. There's something quite attractive about this red poinsettia with its heavy pink flecking. It is, however, a variety that will tolerate few drafts and needs a warm location. 'Sonora Jingle' has really captured my attention with its fabulous bract flecking that almost looks coleus-like. All flecked poinsettias look great in combination with other poinsettias and with potted plants.
White poinsettias with pink veins running through their bracts are usually called 'Marble'. There are all kinds of new cultivars, but the ones that really have an intense marble pattern are 'Marble Star' and 'Pueblo'. Their intense colouring and dark contrasting foliage are really beautiful.
'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, the cranberry speckled '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.
A deep salmon pink poinsettia called 'Maren' is a fabulous plant with huge bracts. It too is one of my favourites. If you're looking for something just a little different, the white and green variegated foliage of 'Silver Star Red', ‘Pink’ and ‘White’ will dazzle you. They’re unusual, and folks love them.
Two new novelties that are really catching fire are the fully double red ‘Winter Rose’ that looks quite stunning with its layered double blossoms. It also stands up well in household conditions. Red, ruffled ‘Carousel’ is another variety that is very unique and will certainly catch your attention. The hottest poinsettia for 2001 is the lavender ‘Plum Puliing’. It’s a novel designer colour and is bringing the highest prices of any poinsettia at the flower auction.
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. Remember: poinsettias are not poisonous so your children and pets are safe.