Poinsettias: from greenhouse to gift exchange

Get a behind the scenes look at poinsettia production at Green Masters Inc.

Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas season plant in the United States and Canada and have been for decades. The USDA reported over 50.4 million poinsettias were sold in 2014 and poinsettias accounted for almost 25 percent of all flowering potted plant sales.  Florida is in the top five in the country for plants sold, coming in at 3 million. But what does it take to supply a market with such an interest in the crop? Determined and talented growers like Filip and Mikael Edstrom, active owners of Green Masters Inc.

Green Masters Inc. was founded in 1981 by Lennart and Britt Edstrom. With the guidance of the previous owners of the property, they converted the foliage nursery to grow potted flowers and over the past 36 years they have expanded the operation from two and a half acres to almost eight acres.

 “One of my father’s core values from the days he helped build hundreds of acres of production in the African wilderness in the 1960’s is KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid,” Filip Edstrom said. “This still resonates today. The plants and systems need to work, be simple, be functional, and be flexible. This allows us to adapt more quickly to changes in the market. The challenge is as technology changes – how do we use it and still stay true to those values?  But it is really nice to check and control the temperatures of the greenhouses from home on a cold night!”

Green Masters Inc. provides potted plants to Florida theme parks, resorts and garden centers. They specialize in a variety of indoor blooming plants including African Violets, Gerbera Daisies, Cyclamen, Rieger Begonias and more. During the summer and fall months, their focus remains on poinsettias.

 “Poinsettias are a short day plant.  They take seven to nine weeks of short days - where we manipulate the environment to the simulate night conditions for 14+ hours to get the plants to flower earlier than natural conditions.  With a touch of a button, we darken this greenhouse,” Edstrom said.

This “short day” requirement along with the need for consistent sizes and colors are some of the obstacles poinsettia growers must overcome.  Demand and seasonality of the crop is another concern.

“If you back years ago, Thanksgiving was a mum holiday and you did not decorate for Christmas until December 1.  Now, the demand comes sooner and Theme parks order these plants for delivery the day after Halloween,” he said.

“It’s no different than any other farmer out there. A farmer has so many acres of growing space, what’re you going to grow and how much of it? When are you going to grow it? It’s a gamble. To say the trends are interesting is an understatement. I blame a lot of my grey hair on this job, but it’s fun,” Edstrom said.

Every crop has its challenges. Whether you are a cattle rancher, blueberry farmer or poinsettia grower, weather and other factors can impact production. 2017 was an exceptionally challenging year for farmers, ranchers and growers alike. Filip discussed the impact Hurricane Irma made on poinsettia production at Green Masters Inc.

“Every poinsettia here rode through the storm. They were drowned and they were in the stage of their life where the roots were starting to grow and if you don’t have a healthy root system, you are not going to have the head on the plant that you need. Some varieties were more sensitive than others,” he said. “We estimate that somewhere between 25,000 to 30,000 plants were lost due to Irma.”

Losing tens of thousands of any crop can be devastating, but Green Masters Inc. bounced back and they continue to have a successful season.

Green Masters Inc. has successfully met the challenges they have faced and remained a leader in the potted flower industry.  Without successful growers like these, our holiday events would surely be missing the striking beauty a poinsettia provides. The next time you purchase a poinsettia, remember what it takes to get that poinsettia into your hands and thank a farmer.

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