Orban’s Nursery & America’s Favorite Christmas Flower

Phyllis Lifestyle, People 9 Comments

My friend Wendy Garner was sharing the story of her family’s business, and I asked her to write about it so that I might share it with you. The photo above shows Wendy’s grandparents at their nursery.

Who doesn’t love decorating for Christmas? And this year, we may take even more delight in filling our homes with holiday cheer. As you’re trimming the tree and decorating your mantel, chances are you may have included poinsettias in your seasonal decor. This Christmas flower is so beloved, more poinsettias are sold than any other flowering potted plant in the United States, even though its season is only six weeks. Congress has even given it its own day. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.

Poinsettias offer color variation for any and every decor.

Poinsettias are native to Central America and were first brought to the United States by Joel Robinson Poinsett in 1828 after discovering it growing wild in Mexico.

One Florida-based family business has been growing poinsettias for 80 years and four generations. Orban’s Nursery was established in 1914 by Martin Orban as a small flower shop in Cleveland, Ohio. Orban’s started growing poinsettias in 1945, when the family’s patriarch, Bill Orban, returned home from serving as a pilot and member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II. He moved the family business to Bradenton, Florida, in the 1950s, and the tradition has continued through his son, Marty, and now grandson, Tyler. The growing season begins in July, when the poinsettia cuttings are first placed in small pots, and the season culminates in November and December as their colorful blooms are timed to develop each week through staggered light exposure.

Wendy's mom as a little girl in the poinsettias.

Wendy’s mom as a little girl in the poinsettias.

This year, under Tyler’s direction, Orban’s Nursery has produced just under 200,000 poinsettias, most of which are distributed to Publix Supermarkets throughout the state of Florida, with some going to Georgia and Alabama.

When shopping for poinsettias, don’t just think red. Although red is the most popular and traditional color, there are actually more than 100 varieties of poinsettias. Names like ‘Princettia’, ‘Ice Punch’, ‘Jingle Bells’, and ‘Autumn Leaves’ offer color variation for any and every decor. And speaking of decor, you are only limited by your imagination. A poinsettia arrangement is stunning when grouped with other plants in a container for a striking centerpiece. The Orban family’s traditional Christmas tree is actually poinsettias placed on risers in the shape of a tree! And don’t worry—the myth is not true: Poinsettias are not poisonous. If they were to be ingested by a pet or small child, they would only cause an upset stomach.

Marty Orban

Marty Orban

Once you bring your poinsettias home, they are easy to care for. Tyler Orban offers these tips:

  • Place in indirect, natural light.
  • Keep away from drafts.
  • Water thoroughly, but allow to drain properly.
  • Don’t let soil get dried out.
  • Watering once to twice a week should suffice.

In warmer climates, like Florida, poinsettias can be planted after the season ends and grow to become beautiful shrubs. They can even get as big as a small tree.

So, deck the halls and fill your home with holiday cheer and America’s favorite Christmas flower. And remember the farmers behind the scenes who work so hard to help bring you joy year after year.

Comments 9

  1. Thank you for sharing that beautiful family business. I am ususally gifted with at least one poinsietta-they’re always such a lovely addition to our Christmas decor.

  2. Did your friend ever give you advise on how 2 get them to turn red again after you’ve kept them all year? We live in Ohio n my Mother kept them after Christmas & was only successful 1x w 1 plant to get It to color up again. Technically the color aren’t blooms there leaves that have changed color as do trees. She tried putting them in the Cole bin and in a closet just be4 Thanksgiving which was always the theory. If you can find out let me know, I refuse to have 1 bcuz I cannot figure them out. Mind you I can get Orchids to rebloom & I’ve owned a bougainvillea since 1980 so I am plant lady, I actually professionally worked as1, I actually hated the poinsettias bak then as I’d have to run back to all the companies who had them each week bcuz they dry out so fast. I’d be happy If your friend cud give me an idea. Also buyer beware their very fragile!

  3. Goodness, what a beautiful view in the Orban greenhouse!
    Wouldn’t it be fun to tour it just before the plants are prepared to be shipped!

    Having a husband who taught horticulture, through osmosis alone I know a bit about plants, including poinsettias. Tho’ I had forgotten that there are over a 100 varieties.

    In Texas we have a number of large commercial nurseries, several of which I’ve been privileged to tour, who keep us supplied with a large variety of lovey house and garden plants, including poinsettias.

    Such a blessing to have access to beautiful seasonal plants!

  4. Thank you for this beautiful story of a great family legacy. I enjoy my poinsettias every Christmas season. I am fortunate that I live near a garden center that grow their own poinsettias too. My fav is the Jungle Bells poinsettias. I have one in my sunroom that is about 36 in diameter and about 24 inches high. I just wish they lasted a bit longer so that we can appreciate their beauty for more than just a season. Have a Very Merry week!

  5. One year my church baptistry was decorated with a beautiful display of red poinsettias in the shape of a tree.
    After all the shut-ins were given flowers, my Daddy (with his green thumb) took several home & planted them
    by the stairs in back of the house. The plants grew around 5 or 6 feet tall but of course never turned red.

    1. Hello! Dorothy,
      I don’t really have a green thumb, but my dad used to be able to grow them from “starts”, too. His got really big too, and they turned red. If I’m correct, I think it has to do with temperatures and hours of darkness. I think they need to have continuous hours of darkness for a long period in order to trigger the color change. I know that one place where they lived, they had a neighbor with a dusk to dawn light and they never turned color! I suppose if you have a greenhouse you can control all that. I used to live in a town (Encinitas) where there was a big grower of them.

  6. Beautiful story. And good to know they are not poisonous. I have always been told they are to animals especially. They are beautiful flowers.

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