Inside a sprawling greenhouse at La Ferme Grover in Ste-Dorothée one sunny afternoon, a carpet of bright red stretched out as far as the eye could see. The temperature was a balmy 18 degrees, the humidity 40 per cent. Here and in other Grover greenhouses, nearly 300,000 potted poinsettias have been watered and fed for months. Those that are ready are being packed and loaded onto trucks destined for Quebec big-box stores including Provigo, Maxi, Home Depot and counterparts in Ontario — and the rest will follow in the weeks ahead.
Plant breeders have worked to produce hardier and more long-lasting poinsettia cultivars and today there is more variety than ever in bract colour and shape. Amid the sea of red in the 500,000-square-foot greenhouse we visited at La Ferme Grover were small pockets of plants with paler-toned bracts: rose, creamy green, marbled pink and green – and a pretty red-green mix known as “glitter.”
But for many consumers, the only acceptable colour for poinsettias red, which is why 90 per cent of those grown at La Ferme Grover are red.
The plants were started from tiny green cuttings from Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico planted in mid-June in a small amount of soil. During the second week of August, they were transplanted into the 6-inch, 8-inch or 10-inch pots in which they remain. As they grew, temperatures, watering and fertilizing were tightly controlled to maximize the chances that they would develop into plants consumers wanted: full and round, with large and colourful bracts.