When I say "nice" what I mean is that perfect plant that we as growers strive to produce by the thousands. Poinsettias that when set side by side show no discernable differences. Complete and perfect uniformity.
Can it be done?
Does it happen that way?
Poinsettia growers fight tooth and nail for six months to produce the perfect poinsettia crop. We have to make sure the plants are planted at the right time so that they can be pinched and spaced at the correct time. A one or two day discrepancy can translate to major problems come December. For instance, I have two greenhouses of poinsettias of which about 60-70 percent made the final specifications for shipping. We went through the house and picked out the best, the "nice" ones. As time permits we will go back through and throw away the remaining 2500-3000 pots. Yes, it hurts but, unfortunately, it happens. This loss was due to being a day late in planting the cuttings which ultimately led to these poinsettias missing about 5 days of growth. Those 5 days led to us throwing away 3000 plants.
What does this have to do with knowing what a nice poinsettia looks like?
After years of growing and selling poinsettia, it is my humble opinion that the majority of the people, be they man, woman or child, who ultimately buy a poinsettia to take home and decorate with do not know what a nice poinsettia is supposed to look like.
Sound absurd? Maybe, but hear me out.
We as poinsettia growers produce "nice" poinsettias because our customers, the garden centers and florist, demand the best poinsettias to put on their shelves and benches, and we will continue to do that. However, after watching people pick out poinsettias in grocery stores, in garden centers and here at the greenhouses, I firmly believe that most people who buy poinsettias can not tell the difference between a "nice" poinsettia and what we call a "Number 2" poinsettia. A Number 2 poinsettia is a plant that just misses target specifications by having one or two less blooms than required or by being an inch taller or shorter than targeted. A lot of the Number 2′s are still great looking plants, but if I were to ship them to my garden centers and florist, they would send them back or demand a discount then in turn sell them for less.
While I was in the process of writing this, I had a customer come in and want to increase his order. After we worked out the details and after he writes a check, this customer asks me if he could see what the #6 poinsettias looked like. He increased his order 233% and paid for them with out even knowing what they looked like! This person was a real estate appraiser who was buying them to give to the teachers at a high school and to give as Christmas presents to his customers.
My argument is why have we as an industry imposed upon ourselves these limitations that result in garden centers automatically discounting and greenhouses throwing away poinsettias that do not meet their "quality" specifications when the consumers cannot tell the difference?
Aren’t the garden centers leaving money on the table by doing so?
What about the poinsettia growers? Why do we have to throw away a few thousand poinsettias
that a lot of people would buy if they could actually see them?
Just to be clear, I am not comparing nice poinsettias to what we all see in the chain stores. People can tell the difference between a chain store poinsettia and a garden center poinsettia (insert your own one-liner here).
So what to do?
Honestly, I have no idea. Poinsettia growers could grow a perfect crop with no out of spec plants, but it won’t happen because it is nearly impossible. Garden centers could relax their poinsettia requirements, but that won’t happen either. We could educate the consumers on what a nice poinsettia is supposed to look like? Great idea! Who does it and how? Who decides what a nice poinsettia is?
Maybe the best thing we can to is work together better so that we as an industry don’t leave money laying on the check out counter or laying on the floor of the greenhouse.
What do you think?