Laidback Gardener TIp of the Day

Horticultural Rip-offs of the Holiday Season

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Tinted poinsettias with sparkles.

The holiday season is as a good season as any to rip off budding gardeners, and perhaps even better, as more of us are open to spending without putting much thought into it. Thus, wholesalers have developed a whole range of rip-offs they sell to garden centers and box stores who then foist them off on unsuspecting gardeners. The vast majority never realize they have been duped.

Here are a few examples, not all related to Christmas, but most are much more in evidence during the holiday season.

1. Living holly plants decorated with wax berries. Check them out: those beautiful red fruits are actually artificial!

2. Living Christmas trees “to replant outside after the holidays.” These seem logical and even eco-friendly, but studies show that not one in 10 actually survive to live another year. Most living Christmas trees are balsam firs or spruces, adapted to long, cold winters. If you keep them indoors more than a week or two, they lose their hardiness and will no longer adapt to being planted outdoors in a cold climate. Yet try these same plants outdoors in a warm climate and they die because they don’t get the cold winter they need. If you want to buy a living Christmas tree, locate one specifically adapted to your garden conditions… and keep it outdoors!

3. Dyed or tinted poinsettias and orchids in a wide range exotic colors: orange, blue, purple, etc. Sometimes the seller sprays glitter on the flowers, as if fake coloring was not enough. Basically, there is nothing wrong this if the customer knows he or she is buying a tinted plant, but when your plant blooms again the following year in a different color than the one you chose, you may well be disappointed.

4. In the same vein, anthuriums with flowers painted with blue, purple, fluorescent green or other colors.

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Succulents spray painted in exotic colors.

5. Spray-painted succulents (yes sprayed with paint… and toxic paint at that!). Most die fairly quickly, and so are put out of their misery

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Real cactus, fake flowers.

6. Cacti with dried flowers glued on onto them… and not even cactus flowers, but strawflowers (Xerochrysum bracteatum).

What horticultural rip-offs have you seen?


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.

1 comment on “Laidback Gardener TIp of the Day

  1. Pingback: Living Dead Amaryllis… on Sale Now! | Laidback Gardener

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