Grower’s greenhouses ablaze with colour

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November 2019

The brightly coloured bracts of Poinsettias have made them one of our favourite indoor plants to brighten festive floral displays but did you know the one you buy will quite likely have been grown in Lincolnshire?

The popularity of Poinsettias as possibly our favourite winter foliage has grown rapidly over the past 30 years and replaced the Christmas Cactus as the most recognisable house plant of the festive period. Bell’s Nurseries of Benington, Boston, are one of the largest commercial growers in the county and their greenhouses are now ablaze with colour from this year’s crop.

The species Euphorbia pulcherrima is part of the spurge family, which is indigenous to Mexico where it grows as a shrub or small tree reaching up to four metres high in the hot climate. It is attractive as a winter house plant for its vibrant red and green foliage although the flaming red bracts which are often mistaken for flower petals are actually leaves.

Holly Bell, of Bell’s Nurseries explained: “We have been growing Poinsettias for over 25 years and they are a fickle and tricky crop! This year we have grown over 200,000 and while red is the most popular variety we also rear white, pink and fancy marbled varieties.”

The cuttings are rooted in June and they are subsequently spaced between four and six times depending on the finished pot size. Bell’s specialise in the largest 17cm pot Poinsettia which you will find on sale in premium supermarkets from the end of this month but they grow all sizes in their 30 acres of protected production across six sites.

When the growing of Poinsettias was commenced more than two decades ago it was a steep learning curve to master the technique of nurturing the cuttings, achieving ideal shaping and initiating the colour. The bracts are created through photoperiodism which entails their exposure to twelve hours of darkness for at least five days in a row. During the day they require the brightest light for the brightest colour.

“The plants require temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees C depending on the stage of development. The higher temperatures are essential for the initiation of the colour, along with these specific light and dark requirements.

“Our Biomass boiler has played a vital role in the financial viability of this crop. Rising fuel costs and subsidised production in Europe has seen very few British Poinsettia growers remain – which is a shame, because we’re pretty good at it, and Poinsettias really don’t travel well,” said Holly.

Each plant is hand pinched to achieve the perfect shape and in the packing sheds will be sleeved by hand before heading off to stores around the UK. Keep your eye open for the ‘Grown in the UK’ symbol on your plant this year and it could well be that the cheery Poinsettias brightening your home this Christmas will have been grown in Lincolnshire.

HOLLY HAS SOME TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR POINSETTIA HAPPY AT HOME
“Once bought, do not leave in your cold car for hours whilst you continue to shop elsewhere. That short cold spell can do enough damage to make the plant fail. This is why plants which have sat in depots and then on boats for many, many hours and even days can sometimes fail no matter how you treat them at home. Sometimes the damage is done before you even buy the plant. Which is a great reason to Buy British! (And never buy a Poinsettia from an outdoor market.)

“Keep your Poinsettia away from direct heat such as fireplaces and radiators and also out of drafts (near doorways etc). They like consistent temperatures.

“Water from underneath and only when the pot feels dry. A dry and wilted Poinsettia will recover with a drink. A consistently overwatered Poinsettia will do nothing but sulk and drop its leaves.”

Have a happy Poinsettia Christmas!

The Poinsettia House at Bell’s Gardeing Outlet opens at the end of November where you will find all sizes and colours on sale from £2.99.

Bell’s Gardening Outlet, signposted off the A52 at Benington, Boston PE22 0EE, Tel: 07950 859 761



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