Putting the Poinsettia Season to Bed By Roger C. Styer

Wow! It’s almost Christmas! If you are a poinsettia groweror retailer, you should be finished shipping and almost finished selling, withonly churches and special customers still remaining. Hopefully, thepoinsettia-selling season was good for you, which means you sold all you hadwithout reducing the price too much. If you are still staring at a lot ofpoinsettias, it usually means the quality of what’s left is poor, the weatherhas been awfully cold for the last few weekends or you’re pricing too high. Inany case, now is a good time to start recapping the poinsettia season so youcan forget about it once the holidays hit and start anew for the spring season.

Recapping Production and Sales

I work with my clients to get them to summarize theirproduction seasons as well as their sales. Looking at production, it isimportant to determine if your growing plan is correct or not and then make thenecessary corrections. Getting your poinsettia-growing plan outlined and updatedis critical to success year after year.

I hear about many growers never having problems until aparticular year or variety. A growing plan should include all cultural andenvironmental factors, as well as operational issues, such as pinching,spacing, etc. This plan should be laid out on a weekly basis. Each variety andpot size should have its own growing plan, schedule and graphical track. Thetwo most important areas for improvement in producing poinsettias are: 1)correct schedules for each variety and pot size and 2) using graphical trackingfor height control.

Sales needs to be recapped each year along with production.Take good notes on what sold when and to whom and what did not sell well. Tryto find out why some poinsettias did not sell well (poor quality, too many,loss of a customer, etc.). Are you selling to the same customer base, or areyou expanding or contracting your number of customers? Did you have to dropprices? When and why? Are you missing some sales by not having enough readyearly, not having the right color mix, not having enough sizes or notdisplaying the product properly? (When selling purple poinsettias, never groupthem next to reds, as they will look awful. Group them with white poinsettiasfor best display.)

New Sizes, Markets and Varieties

Typically, 6-inch poinsettias are a commodity item. I seemore and more growers producing larger sizes and selling them for a good price.There is also interest in smaller sizes, but be careful about overproducing.Look into different containers, such as color bowls, strawberry jars, baskets,centerpiece containers and combinations. I have heard that fundraisers havedeclined in certain parts of the country, but churches will always want lots ofpoinsettias, albeit late in the season. If you have a retail garden center, youcan have a lot of fun promoting poinsettias, as customers always enjoy the massof color at this time of year.

Every year, sales and production should go over newvarieties and changes to their current product mix. Make sure you get to one ofthe poinsettia trials at Purdue, NC State or Florida, or at another universitynear you. Check out the new varieties at trade shows throughout the year. Getas much information as you can about them, and bring them in for a trial on acorrect schedule (not late!). Once you start producing new varieties, emphasizethe newness to your customers ahead of time.

Calculating Production Cost

I often hear that poinsettias are not profitable but can be grownand sold for cash flow purposes. With more pressure from box stores for a $26-inch poinsettia, it’s no wonder growers are concerned. However, let me askone question: When was the last time you really figured out your cost ofproduction for poinsettias? I mentioned this in a previous column about BillSwanekamp’s talk at the OFA Short Course this past year. Bill’s experiencerunning Kube-Pak Corp., Allentown, N.J., has shown him that he needed to figurehis cost of production for the first six months of the year differently thanthe last six months, instead of taking a yearly cost. Once he refigured hiscosts, he found out it was profitable to produce poinsettias. For moreinformation on Bill’s talk, buy the tape from OFA or contact Bill at (609) 259-3114or [email protected] Even if you still cannot calculate poinsettias asprofitable, they may be necessary for cash flow, as you have little to sellfrom fall to spring.

On to Next Year

So, what do you do for next year? Once your growing plans havebeen updated; sales reviewed; and new varieties, pot sizes and markets decidedon, you can put together next year’s order in time to take advantage ofearly-order discounts (EOD). Once you put your cutting order in, put all of theplans in a file with a tickle date of late May. You can bring the plans out forreview in early June before actually starting up the season. This way, everyoneis on the same page as far as production and sales for the coming year.

If you do your own stock, you may be getting poinsettiastock cuttings coming as early as late February or early March. Make sure tohave a separate growing plan for your stock production, which should bereviewed one week before cuttings show up. I know, that’s right when everyoneis busy with spring season! But you need to get the cuttings and stock off to agood start, or you will be buying cuttings in to make up for not paying enoughattention to stock plants.

Poinsettias can be a tough crop, with a long crop time andparticular growing conditions. To be successful year after year, you need tohave correct schedules, detailed growing plans and a solid sales plan. Revieweverything once the season is basically over, before everyone takes vacationand forgets the details. Make your adjustments for next year well in advance,and stay close to your market for new varieties, pot sizes and usages. As youwill find out, growing and selling poinsettias can be easy, fun and profitableafter all!

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Roger C. Styer

Roger Styer is the leading greenhouse production consultant and president of Styer's Horticultural Consulting, Inc., Batavia, Ill. He can be reached by phone at (630) 208-0542 or E-mail at [email protected]

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