Houseplants

Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Having A Blue Christmas?

décembre 5-anglaisGarden centers, box stores and supermarkets are all decked out for the Holidays with beautiful poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in shades of red, pink, white, cream… and more recently, blue, purple or orange, with sparkles to boot. The first series of colors is natural: through selection and hybridization, it has been possible to take the normally red-bracted poinsettia and cause it to have bracts in various shades of pink and white, sometimes even bicolors. The intense blues, purples, and oranges are fake, resulting from a special dye being sprayed onto the bracts. (The sparkles are fake too, but that, most people have figured out.)

If you’re like me, you keep your poinsettias from year to year. Mine bloom faithfully every year starting in late November (I just put them in a room with no artificial light starting in September, as they need short days in order to bloom, and voilà! They bloom for the Holidays). But if you keep the dyed ones, you’ll find that most will have white bracts from the second year on (dyes show up better on a white poinsettia than a red or pink one).

Poinsettias aren’t the only plants being artificially colored. There are now fluorescent blue and purple orchids (these are actually injected with dyes!), succulents with leaves spray-painted pink and purple and even anthuriums with flowers lacquered in various unlikely colors.

All these shades will eventually wear off as new growth takes over and the plant will go back to its original color. So before you get excited about a plant you’ve found in some exotic new color, check with the merchant. Hopefully he’ll be able to tell you if it’s a fake or the real thing.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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