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December 5, 2014 Calgary Zoo

Painted Peacock Poinsettias

ZOOLIGHTSFrostedForestCollage

There is a lot of colour in our Frosted Forest display in the ENMAX Conservatory at the Zoo. Each year we have some fun and design a Christmas display around a unique theme and this year our Frosted Forest boasts hundreds of blue and purple glittering poinsettias.

Are these strangely hued poinsettias the result of years of careful breeding? Nope. It’s true that the number of cultivars has exploded since Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced North Americans to this unusual plant hailing from Mexico and Central America. But blue and purple? Not yet.

These poinsettias are the product of a little horticultural wizardry. Custom floral paint and non-toxic adhesive and glitter give these white poinsettias their painted peacock look. By treating only the top of the showy bracts (the true flowers of poinsettias are actually the tiny yellow bits in the centres of the ‘bloom’) normal processes like plant respiration and transpiration are not impacted. These vital activities occur via pores on the undersides of the leaves.

I must admit being somewhat apprehensive about ordering hundreds of blue and purple poinsettias. My finger remained poised over the send button of my computer for quite some time before I could bring myself to do it. I have to say though, if you can’t be sparkly and over the top at Christmas, what can you? In the end I think it’s fun, and in the evening hours at ZOOLIGHTS, magical.

While it remains to be seen if these treated plants have the staying power of our usual crimson selections, we are following our typical protocol for caring for poinsettias. Bright indirect light, good drainage (never let your poinsettia sit in water), water in moderation (allow the soil surface to dry slightly between watering), and daytime temperatures of about 20˚C, dropping to 17˚C at night. No fertilizer is needed for your poinsettias during the holiday season.

Happy Holidays from the horticulture staff at the Calgary Zoo!

-Corinne Hannah, Zoo Horticulturist

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