The painted poinsettia craze is spreading, and that's making some purists see red.
This year, big-box stores, independent garden centers and supermarkets are offering poinsettias – the potted plants long associated with Christmas – that have been sprayed with pigments or dyes, dusted with glitter and even coated with metallic effects. These treatments, said to be harmless to the plants, turn the normally red, pink or white leaves into a riot of purple, blue, fuchsia, yellow, orange, silver or gold.
Some plants even feature polka dots, speckles or stripes, while others are coated with custom colors to match those of a football team or a homeowner's decor.
"They're stunning," says Renee Leone of Blauvelt, N.Y., who bought several multicolor poinsettias last week at the Matterhorn Nursery. "It's tradition with a modern twist – not the same old poinsettia your grandmother had." Leone says she'll keep a few for herself and give several as gifts.
The plant industry began decorating poinsettias as it searched for a way to charge more for a Christmas tradition that had become a low-profit commodity. While poinsettias are the top-selling flowering potted plant in America, with more than 60 million sold each year, they have become practically a giveaway item at some retailers.
A painted poinsettia in a 6-inch pot can go for $20 or more at some garden centers, compared to $10 or less for an undecorated one.
Photo by Ian Gleadle.