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Here's why poinsettia plants may be in short supply this holiday season

Professor Richard Criley
Lillian Tsang
Professor Richard Criley shares a pink euphorbia pulcherrima grown by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students.

It was National Poinsettia Day on Sunday, Dec. 12. One of the largest local suppliers of poinsettias plants here in the islands, Leilani Nursery in Waimanalo, hasn't been able to supply its customers with product this season as it has for more than three decades.

The winter-blooming plant is native to Mexico and came to the U.S. in the early 1800s. Southern California resident Paul Ecke Sr. and his descendants are credited with turning it into a Christmas staple.

University of Hawaiʻi Professor Emeritus Richard Criley spent time with the Ecke family and studied poinsettia for more than five decades. The Conversation talked with Criley to learn why it's in short supply this season.

"Commercial growers may have had a limited amount of cuttings that they could buy this year, shipping and all those things that are disrupting the marketplace. So we're a little bit shy on having the quantities of poinsettias this year that we normally would be selling," he said.

"We've had such a warm fall, it's kind of held up some of the coloring of the plants. And so we should be getting a lot more and better quality plants over the next couple of weeks," Criley said.

Lillian Tsang

Criley shared these tips about using poinsettias in arrangements — and keeping them alive:

  • For cut flowers, be sure to wash off the white latex sap thoroughly so the plant can take in water
  • Change the water every other day as cut blooms can last up to two weeks.
  • If they're in soil, they like their water but they don't like wet feet — so avoid overwatering.
  • Be sure to put them in an area with enough light to keep the leaves active. They're actually high-light outdoor plants that are being forced to grow inside, Criley said.

Professor Criley also shared this link to a colorful catalog of poinsettia.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 10, 2021. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Lillian Tsang is the senior producer of The Conversation. She has been part of the talk show team since it first aired in 2011. Contact her at ltsang@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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