Poinsettias are a beautiful, necessary evil. I have heard them described as such countless times, and admittedly, I have wondered why growers continue to produce this crop when it has become such a commodity that they can barely break even, let alone make a profit. As pretty as they are, and as much as we love them, sometimes growing poinsettias simply keeps the lights on, the heat going, and warm bodies employed. They are labor-intensive, pest-attracting space hogs that require months of attention, significant investment in time, energy, and inputs, and they’re not all that easy to produce. And after all of that, you may or may not turn a profit? All of these reasons (and more) are why many grower-retailers have said, “No thanks!” deciding that they can purchase poinsettias cheaper than growing the crop themselves, and why several wholesale growers who used to enjoy this former cash crop have moved on to other pursuits.
When asked the most ideal retail situation for poinsettias in our annual Poinsettia Survey, many grower-retailers answered, “take them out of big box stores.” But we all know that a) that’s not going to happen and b) it’s not the answer because c) it’s likely poinsettias might be worse off in terms of visibility to younger generations if taken out of mainstream retailers. Besides, we want to bring poinsettias back to profitability like they were in their heyday and grow consumption, not make them an elite crop.
Instead, there are some effective ways that have been identified by you, our readers, on how we can work together to generate positive messages about poinsettias and ultimately increase demand and drive profits. Like anything else that benefits the industry, it all comes down to supporting one another.
In our 2016 Poinsettia Survey, we asked growers what kind of trend and marketing information they’d most like to see from the industry to reinvigorate the poinsettia market. Some of the most common requests were:
1. A Better White. Growers said they’d like to see breeders focus on breeding more distinct, clearer, richer colors — namely White varieties, which over the past few years have been growing in demand, especially earlier in the season. Unfortunately, consumers don’t see our current Whites as white.
2. Dispel the Poisonous Myth. Probably the most basic message, and a starting point for us all to work together, is to educate the masses that poinsettias are kid and pet friendly, and not poisonous. One grower in our survey said around 70% of consumers still believe this is true. Metrolina Greenhouses released a consumer-focused video this past season, but the message didn’t go much farther than its own social media pages. Unfortunately, the big box retailers cannot promote this message due to liability. But we can. Social media makes it easy and affordable — we just have to be willing to share each other’s messages, and create our own.
3. Promote Decorating with Poinsettias as the Plant of the Season. We need more mainstream media focusing on poinsettias for décor, before and during the holiday season. Better Homes and Gardens did a beautiful piece in a recent issue on decorating with poinsettias (though some were plastic or felt). In our survey, growers said we need spots in national news, on morning shows, and in print and social media, to promote decorating with real poinsettias. And because the holiday retail season keeps getting earlier, perhaps we need to place care tags or “enjoy by” dates on our product to encourage consumers to care for and keep buying them.
4. Promote Poinsettias as a Healthy Gift Option. Think about how many people spend hours upon hours baking during the holiday season, to gift calorie-laden goodies to their friends and family. While baking will remain a staple activity, perhaps we could lessen the load people feel leading up to the holidays by promoting poinsettias as a time-saving, healthy alternative to spread holiday cheer without the extra weight. Since baking is also a way for families and friends to spend time together, we could add ideas for creating beautiful holiday arrangements with poinsettias, greens, and foliage that people could share. Similar to “sip and dab” nights with wine and art canvases, promote events encouraging the same kind of fellowship, only with plants and flowers in place of paint and canvases.
As you plan for the 2017 holiday season, try incorporating some of these ideas, share your results on social media, and help your fellow growers by sharing theirs, as well.
Grower Homework: Poinsettias can be profitable for everyone again if we work together. Create your own videos and articles promoting that poinsettias are safe, non-toxic, and the plant of the holiday season for decor and gifts. Post them on social media, and share other growers’ messages, as well. Tell me about your efforts, successes, and challenges at [email protected]