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Good Question: How Do Poinsettias Get Crazy Colors?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It may be the most manipulated of all the flowers.  The poinsettia comes in a dizzying array of colors, more than roses or daisies or virtually anything else.  So how do poinsettias get their crazy colors, like blue and purple?

“Maybe they put in blue seeds,” said one of Mrs. Carey’s kindergarten students at Rice Lake Elementary School in Maple Grove.

No, “they put blue paint inside the seeds,” said another student.

When it comes to the boldest, most unusual colors, there’s no magic with the planting process.

“They take a couple different layers of paint and mix paints,” said Ron Svehla, head grower at Lynde Greenhouse in Maple Grove. “It’s spray painted, the plant goes into a painting booth and they paint them.”

Lynde doesn’t do that anymore, but Gertens Greenhouses in Inver Grove Heights hand-paints in Antique Red, Holiday Sunrise, Blue Holiday, Confetti, Purple Pride and Packer Backer colors.

As for the more natural-looking crazy colors, the Monet Twilight, Cinnamon Star and Cortez Burgundy, for example: “It’s all through breeding, plant breeding and genetics,” said Svehla.

Svehla said that botanists spend years cross-pollinating one type of poinsettia with another, trying to get the perfect, inspired color.

“They have to make thousands and thousands of combinations,” he said.

Poinsettias are not grown from seeds, so there’s no chance that a blue seed would produce a blue leaf.

“What we do is take a cutting, 12-14 leaves. We take it dip it into a rooting hormone that we direct stick in these pots,” he said.

Then the plant gets a heavy volume of mist over two to four weeks, and then the root takes hold.

Lynde starts planting poinsettias just after July 4 to have them ready to go for the holiday rush.

As for the glitter on many different poinsettia leaves, that doesn’t occur naturally.

“The glitter is put on by us to decorate it up a little bit,” said Svehla.

For all of the genetic and airbrushed shenanigans — 80 percent of the poinsettias sold are the classic color red.

WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Reports

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