Reaching the fifth stage with poinsettias



It never fails. Every year, a plant that I’ve dismissed with contempt in seasons past manages to weasel its way into my good graces by displaying attributes I never seemed to appreciate before. I still don’t like the crazy glittery and painted ones—and fail to see how they’d enhance anyone’s holiday décor—but some of the newer poinsettia colors are really beautiful. In spite of everything, I couldn’t resist.

The gateway drug was a pink variety I found at the wonderful Lockwoods, a sophisticated nursery we are lucky enough to have here. It opened my mind to consideration of the other varieties around it—greenish white, dark maroon, deep rose … and so on. (They all have names, but I don’t care about them enough to know what they are.)

When buying poinsettias, you need to go all out—get 3, 6, or more for a banked display. Just like swaths of perennials, these ubiquitous creatures look their best when displayed en masse.

I also like the tree forms, though I didn’t see any this year. The double forms are pretty, but kind of lanky. My mother used to practice an elaborate methodology for saving the plants over to the next season—I feel certain it involved some kind of basement dormancy—but that’s just crazy. Into the compost they’ll go, along with the dried-up evergreens. I’d want to have room for the newest colors—well, some of them. A horticulture center in Ontario has one that looks like a ketchup chip (ketchup-flavored potato chips are another Canadian specialty).  Red-dusted poinsettias and ketchup-flavored chips. No and no.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I never noticed the lighter pink poinsettias before this year. I like the dark pinks and rose-colored ones, but the very pale pinks and pale greens look anemic to me.

  2. Hmm, maybe I’ll overcome my poinsettia aversion by taking your approach – white or pale pink, no glitter (good lord!) and toss them as soon as they get straggly looking. Maybe wrap the ugly foil with burlap or something silver or white and who knows, I could become a fan.
    I’ve always kept them way past their prime!

  3. I believe they would look great in a bigger container with other plants. I have become tired of single plants in pots. Who would like to try for me ? And then I could get inspiration and me too, fall for this plant this year !

  4. This is the first year in a long time I haven’t bought one for the holidays. I got two kittens and am worried about the survival of the tree let along introduce another plant this time of year.. So I (*gasp*) bought two fake ones from Pottery Barn.

  5. I’m a Master Gardener in San Antonio and a couple of weeks ago we had our Annual Poinsettia Sale and it got pretty serious. I mean folks were lined up at 8 am to get the best picks and there were arguments over whether or not the maroon poinsettias were dark enough… it was still fun though 🙂

  6. I like the traditional reds and deeper colors. Pink, yellow, green ? They all look so sickly, and not festive in my book. Glitter and paint ? Eeeeww ! But if I could find a white one – white like fresh snow – I’d buy a dozen.

    Post-Christmas, my poinsettia will linger by the front door far too long. I might get it to last until summer – sans trademark bracts, of course – but it’s a good bet I’ll foget to water it and it’ll become compost soon after.

  7. I’m thinking about waiting until after Christmas and buying a couple to try again in the garden. I had one growing for a few years by the side of the house, but a freeze got it. Before the freeze it did okay despite being planted on the north side, by a fence, overshadowed by shell ginger and those damn elephant ears. This time, go to the light.

  8. Visited Sin City for the first time a week ago. The Bellagio Conservatory has tantalizing jets of water that arc over a walkway (please to stay out of photograph, please) and Papa, Mama and Baby polar bears covered with 12,000 to 20,000 white carnations. There’s also a large variety of poinsettas, full color range plus some with variegated foliage. The Venetian also has a variety.

    Some other folks were impressed enough to post photos:

  9. I read your blog daily, agree with many opinions, have been a landscape gardener on the north coast- Arcata. I am a nursery professional now- aspiring to open my own more modern and progressive nursery-in eastern Oregon!! Wish me luck.
    I would like you to sight the marketing trends you mentioned in your recent article about “You can grow it!” with a picture of zanzibar ginger at your local bot. garden.
    If you could send me that info that would be great. Thank you

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