US: Reinventing the poinsettia

The red and green poinsettia is as timeless as Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas,” though the appearance of more than 30 million plants is anything but automatic. Since the spring, skilled but nervous growers across the land have been raising one of their most economically important, and finicky, crops.

This is only one aspect of poinsettia dynamics. Since a canny California cut-flower grower named Paul Ecke Sr. came up with the idea of the poinsettia as a potted plant for the holidays, breeders have been trying to perfect it.

Some of the shifts have been aesthetic: decorator poinsettias in lime green, ivory or burgundy, poinsettias whose petal-like bracts are flecked, marbled, splashed and otherwise turned into something that will spur your Aunt Mabel to wonder what they will think of next.

Other breeding improvements are not obvious to consumers but critical to growers and retailers in the way the plant can be grown and shipped and hold up outside the greenhouse.

Read more at The Washington Post (Adrian Higgins)

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