Poinsettias and other decorative holiday plants are selling well this year at nurseries across the West.
Growers in California, Washington and Oregon told the Capital Press that while sales of poinsettias for events, churches and fundraisers have slumped, many growers are experiencing record retail sales. Marketers say it appears shoppers are decorating early this year and brightening their homes for a COVID-19 Christmas.
“Definitely more people are buying poinsettias this year. Our retail sales are actually up about 33%,” said Mark Bigej, CEO of Al’s Garden & Home, a multi-generation nursery with operations in Woodburn, Sherwood, Gresham and Wilsonville, Ore.
In California, the nation’s top poinsettia-producing state, some large retail growers say their sales are up 100% or more from last year. According to the California Farm Bureau Federation, growers across the state are seeing poinsettias sell more “briskly” this year.
In 2019, USDA estimated Americans bought around $34 million in potted poinsettias. Experts say it’s harder to predict this year’s totals because while individual sales are up, event sales are down.
Ellen Egan, owner of Egan Gardens in Keizer, Ore., said the majority of her company’s annual poinsettia sales come from school and church fundraisers. When the pandemic struck earlier this year, Egan planted 20% fewer poinsettias, anticipating a different market.
“Even if we sell through them well, as it appears we will, it’s still going to be 20% less income from the crop,” said Egan.
Similarly, Zac Burke-Wolfe, sales manager at Peoria Gardens in Albany, Ore., said he’s seen slightly higher retail sales this year, but it “didn’t make up for the void” of his lost fundraiser and event sales.
Burke-Wolfe said Peoria Gardens, which has been gradually reducing its poinsettia production, will likely pull back even more next year because the crop is high-maintenance.
In the U.S., most poinsettias are grown in heated greenhouses with high humidity.
There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias, according to the University of Illinois Extension. They come in yellow, pink, white, purple, salmon and multi-colored varieties, but the most popular poinsettias have red leaves.
The poinsettia’s “flower” is actually its tiny yellow center, horticulturists say. The red “petals” are a special kind of leaves called bracts.
According to Anne Effland, a senior economist for USDA’s Economic Research Service, the poinsettia became popular as a Christmas decoration in part because its star-like leaves resemble the Star of Bethlehem and because the poinsettia’s red and green coloring is festive.
This year, nursery owners say people are trying to be as festive as possible — and not just with poinsettias.
Bigej of Al’s Garden & Home said his holiday wreaths, produced in partnership with Christmas tree growers, are also selling in record numbers, with about 50% higher sales than last year.
Growers across the West say that although the pandemic disrupted the nursery industry and hurt event-based markets, 2020 has been a “really strong year” for developing direct-to-consumer relationships.