This year’s event was held on Dec. 2 with a wide variety of plants to choose from.
The annual event is more than just a place to come and pick up pretty flowers, according to LSU horticulturist Jeff Kuehny.
“In addition to offering plants for sale, we also have the customers fill out a survey form to give us feedback on which varieties they like best,” he said.
The plants are grown as research trials for companies across the country to determine consumer preference and to find the best locations to grow each variety.
Numerous varieties are planted at the research center in the hot summer months to evaluate production practices, Kuehny said.
“We had four different breeders in the United States that we trialed poinsettias for this year,” Kuehny said. “Each one submits five to 10 new varieties that they are testing as well as some of their older varieties.”
LSU AgCenter county agent Henry Harrison from Washington Parish said he wanted to look at the different varieties and invited his Master Gardener class to come to the event.
“I thought this would be a good opportunity to have this new Master Gardener class come and see some of the things the LSU AgCenter is doing this time of year,” Harrison said.
Dawn Maranto perused the different varieties and admitted she was surprised the quality was so much better than she’s seen in the retail outlets.
“Look at it. The price is great. They are better than what they have in any of the big box stores. I was even at one of the leading nursery places in town, and they just don’t have the assortment,” she said. “Yes, they have the reds; they have the whites; they have the pinks, but they don’t have a lot of the fancies like here.”
While some of the customers were purchasing the plants as gifts, Carol and John Harbo have a system for their purchase.
“We’re buying for our front entrance,” Carol Harbo said. “We’ll use the white ones at night and we like the reds in the day.”
The history of the poinsettia in this country goes back to the early 1800s when Joel Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico at the time, introduced the plant to California.
The Ecke family of California realized that this wild plant that bloomed close to Christmas had the potential to become a popular holiday flower.
“In the early days, poinsettias were mainly grown for the cut-flower industry,” Kuehny said. “But as time passed, growers moved more toward potted-plant production.”
Poinsettias are considered a short-day plant, which means they require short days in order to initiate a flower. On September 21, when the day length becomes less than 12 hours, the plants begin to flower.
The poinsettia doesn’t have flower petals like many other potted plants, but have “bracts” Kuehny explained.
“What actually happens is the modified leaves of the plant stop producing chlorophyll, and more of the pigment is visible,” Kuehny said.
Kuehny said extra light at night causes the coloration to be delayed later in the year.
For more information on poinsettias visit the LSU AgCenter website at lsuagcenter.com.