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 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.
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.
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.