Sunday, December 11, 2011

The care and feeding of poinsettias

Countdown to Christmas 14 days

In the old days, when you still went to the mall in your covered wagon, I worked in the visual department at Nordstrom. In the old days, when store visuals were deemed important, the Christmas trim was a big deal. In the old days, when there was money in the budget, they really spent it on fluffing the store out to its fullest.

At my first store, after I helped install the Christmas trim, my ongoing job for the rest of the month was to come back and water the poinsettias. Then I moved to Los Angeles, and I started over at the bottom of the display totem pole. After I helped install Christmas, I got to come back and water the poinsettias. In the old covered wagon days of retail, a full size 3 floor Nordstrom would have around 600 poinsettia plants.

They were everywhere. They arrived from the grower on Thanksgiving Eve while the store was in full Christmas change over. 6 plants in a box, 100 boxes, on the receiving dock, in the way. They needed to be moved off the dock, into the store, still out of the way, and then every single one of them opened and placed in the store.
Inside the big cardboard box there are 6 poinsettia plants. Each plant is wrapped in a paper sleeve cone. Fastest way to remove sleeve, hold base of pot with left hand, pull sleeve down onto left arm revealing plant. Full fluffy plants got prominently displayed in single tera cotte pots all over the store. Slightly smaller, broken, or shabby plants (you've got 600, there are bound to be a few) get mixed into planter boxes around the escalators or up high on the cosmetic ledges. It is one person's job for the entire set up night to manage the poinsettia crew.

Poinsettias have a milky white sap that is very sticky and after a few hours quite itchy. At my house we call them "red weeds" (that's the polite term). For ten years I did not allow them in my home. About 2 years ago, I relented.

This is a video of the pants being packed up at the nursery, it made my hands and arms itch.

It is an never ending dance to keep them alive inside a cool at night, warm by day, get no sunshine indoor environment.

Here's my secret: Poinsettias like to be teased.

They don't want too much water. They don't want too little water. Do not water them every day. Do not water them every other day. Water them every 3 days. When you do, don't give them too much water. Give them about 2/3 of what you would give a normal plant.

If you have one by a heat vent, one by the window, one in a dark corner, rotate them once a week with each other. I know your poinsettia came in a pretty foil wrapper that looks oh so festive, but please, put it in a real pot with a saucer. If you can't do that, at least take the price tag off the foil wrapper.

If you follow these simple instructions, you're plant will still be healthy and happy when you take down Christmas in January... and since you've taken down the rest of Christmas, please do me a favor, take your poinsettia outside and THROW IT AWAY.

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