UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: indianco@ufl.edu 

December 13, 2006

Quick Links:   Poinsettia Value    Poinsettia tips    Cyclamen    Diamond Frost      Reindeer Paws    References    


Feature Article - for release the week of December 17, 2006

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent



New Greens for Holiday Giving


Tired of the same old holiday gifts?  Scared of gift cards and shopping malls?  Want something more personal than cash?  Consider visiting a local nursery, florist or garden shop and give something green and growing for the holidays.


Last week I visited the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. One of my stops was the horticulture greenhouses, filled with poinsettias grown for the annual field day.  I try to visit this event each year to see what’s new and hot and took several photos for our county Extension home page.


But Christmas is not just for trees and poinsettias.  Besides “Big Red”, other plants that were being evaluated by UF were Cyclamen, a new version of an old favorite; Snowflake Euphorbia, a “weed” that’s been dressed up for the holidays;  and an Australia import that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before, Reindeer Paws.



Poinsettias are Big Business


How big are holiday flower and plant sales?  I checked the latest figures from USDA, and found that more Poinsettias are sold than any other potted flowering plant.  With 112 million US households in 2006 spending $ 49 million on flowers and decorative plants, it’s not something to ignore. [Update: USDA figures for 2011 poinsettia production in 15 US states - $34.7 million pots, a wholesale value of  $139 million, with retail Poinsettia sales estimated at  $250 million.]


How much of this is comes from the old red favorite? During the holidays, the average US homeowner spends about $3.50 dollars on potted plants.  While orchid sales are gaining, poinsettias account for about $2.50 of those sales.


If you want some tips on Poinsettia care, we can help you out. I’d like to point out a couple of tips that  can help select that perfect poinsettias:

·        Look at the yellow center flower bud to determine freshness:  For the longest lasting decoration, choose a plant that does not show yellow pollen, and be sure that it shows no evidence of molding or rotting.

·        High quality plants will have un-broken stems and lots of green leaves.  Abused plants have been exposed to temperature extremes or drafty conditions that shorten the shelf life of poinsettias.


  These true flowers of Poinsettia, called cyathia, are in "full bloom", as indicated by the presence of the yellow pollen.  This plant is at its prime, and may begin to decline from this point on. Photo Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS The cyathia of these Poinsettia flowers have begun to rot, indicating this plant has a short shelf life.  Avoid purchasing plants that have this problem. Photo Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS Plants with long lateral shoots can easily be broken. Check the NSCU website for all kinds of other Poinsettia problems. Photo: © Brian Whipker, NCSU

New Crops for the Holidays

The field day was not just for Poinsettias.  UF Professor Dr. Jim Barrett also included a few other plants in his evaluations.  This gave growers and consumers a chance to take a look at new and novel plants that can diversify the holiday plant pallet.  Here are the new ones from this year’s field day:


Cyclamen: This old-time holiday plant provides a long-lasting splash of color to long winter nights in your home.  Imagine a red, pink or white flowery pinwheel growing above a tightly clumped dark green leaved plant, and you can picture a pretty Cyclamen.


They are a bit uncommon in garden center, and more expensive than Poinsettias.  It takes two years to grow full-sized Cyclamen from seed to their winter flowering splendor.  While Northern gardeners may coax several years out of a Cyclamen, growing conditions in the home are not ideal for this Mediterranean beauty in our Florida Yards.  Enjoy them, and then send it north with a snowbird.


The new addition on display at the UF Trials was “Super Series Compact Wine Red Cyclamen. This variety from Holland has lots of deep wine-red colored flowers with variegated foliage.  Plants bloom a lot, and last a long time, with flowers that do not fade.  Plants stay compact even under hot conditions, which makes better for indoor use.  FloraStar, an organization that tests and promotes new container grown ornamentals, have awarded this cyclamen cultivar a Gold Star!


Cyclamen plants come in a variety of sizes and flower colors.  They are popular around the holidays. Photo: UF/IFAS.   This variety, Compact Wine Red Cyclamen, appears to have better characteristics for the Florida Consumer. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS This is a photo of Compact Wine Red Cyclamen from the plant breeder in Holland.  Photo:  Schoneveld Twello b.v


Snowflake Euphorbia:  According to Stuart horticulturalist Carol Bailey, the White-laced Euphorbia (Euphorbia leucocephala) is a usually a shrub or small tree.  Like the poinsettia, the true flowers are small but fragrant, found in clusters surrounded by showy white to cream colored leaves called bracts. The flowers appear around Thanksgiving and may last into the New Year. In the Florida Yard, it can become leggy and rangy, but is easy to care for and worth waiting for the flowers.


Euphorbia "Diamond Frost" is a new compact cultivar of this poinsettia relative.  It can give a snowy look to Christmas decorations. At the UF trial, they planted it with a red poinsettia, and it looked very festive.  A limited number of plants grown for sale were quickly snapped up by the public, so it may be a popular choice in the future.


Snowflake Euphorbia (Euphorbia leucocephala) can be grown as a shrub in Florida.  Photos: Dr. George Rogers, PBCC Department of Environmental Horticulture
  "Diamond Frost" is a new dwarf cultivar of Snowflake Euphorbia is well suited for growing and selling as a holiday plant. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS  Adding this new cultivar to a planter of other holiday plants can be a dramatic  holiday gift. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS.  


Reindeer Paws:  A final trial plant that was displayed at the field day is an unusual import from Southwest Australia.  There are several species of these grass-like plants found in the warmer dry areas of that country, but the flower spikes of the so-called Kangaroo Paws have captured the attention of both cut flower enthusiasts and potted flowering plant growers.


The jury is still out on how they might do in humid subtropical Florida Yards.  But it’s the flowers we want to talk about. Can you imagine a spike of flowers that looks like a fuzzy, velvety paw, colored in bright shades of the rainbow?  Flower buds are covered with colored hairs that give the flowers their color,  ranging from black to yellow, orange and red.


The trialed plant was a compact species given a trade name of  Kanga TM.  It is a cultivar of a plant called Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii).  US growers are calling this plant Reindeer Paws because the red and green flower color is perfect for an unusual holiday plant.  Keep your eye out for this one in next years holiday plant offerings.

In the wild,  Kangaroo Paws  is adapted to the dry climate of Western Australia.  It is the floral emblem of that state. Photo: Nature Base

illust: Marion Westmacott ©ANBG This drawing of the flower of Kangaroo Paws gives an idea of the beauty of this flower, which as also been used for the cut flower industry. Graphic: Australian National Botanic Gardens


KangaTM is a new plant-patented hybrid of this plant.  It  has spectacular red & green flowers and is suited for growing as a holiday container plant. Photo: © 2005 Bodger Seeds Ltd and Bodger Botanicals Ltd.


UPDATE, 6/2007:   A landscape Hardy Kangaroo Paws for the U.S. is available from a South Carolina Nursery;  click here for more information! 



I’ve placed more information and lots of photos on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on the UF Poinsettia field day, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners from 1 to 3 PM on Tuesday afternoons.  Happy Holly-Days!



Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Nick Place, Dean. Last update: 12/13/2012


Anonymous. "Super Series Mini Cyclamen Wins Gold Star."   Arlington Heights, Illinois:  Greenhouse Product News, January 31, 2005 http://www.gpnmag.com/gpn/index.cfm?fuseaction=showNewsItem&newsItemID=8530 

Bailey, Carol.  Plant Profile: Snowflake Euphorbia.  Stuart: Treasure Coast Newspapers. 1/17/2006. http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/Snowflake.euphorbia.pdf

Boden, Anne. Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii).  Canberra, Australia: Australian National Botanic Gardens, 10/06.  http://www.anbg.gov.au/emblems/wa.emblem.html 

Culbert, Daniel F.  2006 UF Poinsettia Field Day. Okeechobee: UF/IFAS Extension Service 12/14/06. http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/2006.Poinsettia.Field.Day.htm 

Jerardo, Alberto.  Floriculture and Nursery Crops Outlook [FLO-05].  Washington : USDA Electronic Outlook Report, Economic Research Service.   10/ 22/2006 . [See Table 6 and Figure 6.]   http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/FLO/FLO-09-22-2006.pdf

Nature Base.  Red and Green Kangaroo Paw.  Perth: Western Australia Dept. of Environment and Conservation, 12/2006. http://www.naturebase.net/content/view/298/97/ 

Schoneveld Twello b.v.  Mini Cyclamen: "Mini Winter F1" Holland: 12/06. 

Smith, P. Allen.  Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost®'   Allen's Garden website, 12/06. http://www.pallensmith.com/index.php?option=com_plantindex&task=view&PlantID=172 

Wikpedia. Anigozanthos  12/12/06.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anigozanthos  

Whitinger, Dave  Flor de Nino Euphorbia leucocephala. Bryan TX: Dave's garden Plant Files. 12/14/2006. http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/86745/index.html