Poinsettias may be native to Mexico, but they thrive at Homewood Nursery in North Raleigh.
This year, the plant experts at Homewood grew 30,000 poinsettias in more than 100 different varieties in their greenhouses on Honeycutt Road.
“We like to say it’s not Christmas until you have a Homewood poinsettia,” said Bob Serrone, the retail greenhouse manager.
The nursery grows a poinsettia rainbow of red, white and pink plants, plus every combination of those colors. The plants come in speckled and graduated colors, with smooth, spiked and curly edges.
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“Red is still the number one seller because of the tradition of it,” Serrone said. “But there are so many different varieties of red.”
The poinsettia growing season begins in April, when small cuttings arrive at Homewood. From that point on, they require intensive care that includes hand-pinching and hand-watering to produce full, blooming plants uniform in size and height.
“It’s amazing how many times we touch these plants before they come out here,” said Suzy Talucci, Homewood’s chief poinsettia grower.
Homewood is part of a national poinsettia breeding program. The poinsettia team grows 40 new varieties each year that breeders come through to assess. It’s also tradition for Homewood customers to vote on their favorites from the trial breeds.
Homewood has been cultivating other poinsettia traditions throughout the year like an annual open house in November and vignettes set up each year for families and their pets to come in and snap pictures surrounded by a sea of poinsettias.
“We get family holiday photos there every year for our Christmas cards,” said Laurie Fasano, a North Raleigh mother of four. “The greenhouse is so beautifully decorated.”
The Fasano family also loves voting on the new breeds, and they were delighted to find a variety this year that shares the name of 11-month-old Isabella Fasano.
“We shop there year-round, but our favorite time of year is when the greenhouse is full of white, red and pink poinsettias,” Fasano said.
“We just purchased our first one from Homewood Nursery this year,” said Julie Scattaregia, a North Raleigh resident transplanted from the Midwest.
“It’s gorgeous. This will most likely be the start of a new tradition,” said Scattaregia, who snapped a few photos of her own of the greenhouse in bloom.
Growing since 1960
Homewood got into the poinsettia growing business in the late 1960s, when founder Bill Stoffregen decided to try to grow a crop in his homemade greenhouse off of Six Forks Road.
He was pleased with the results and as the business grew through the years, so did the number of poinsettias it grew. Raleigh churches have always been some of the most faithful customers, filling their sanctuaries with Homewood poinsettias in December.
The plants come in pots of different sizes, hanging baskets and even shallow bowls that work for centerpieces. And the growing staff works to make sure their plants are available up until Christmas.
“We definitely want to make sure we have some for the last-minute shoppers,” Serrone said. “Even the day before Christmas, they can still come and take a picture and see thousands of poinsettias.”
Poinsettias do require some care once you get them home.
Serrone says these plants need to be in a room with enough natural light that you could read fine print. Keep them away drafts and from heat sources like fireplaces or ducts. And don’t water more than once or twice a week.
“The number one thing that kills them is overwatering,” he said.
And Talucci says as pretty as they look on your front steps, exposure to cold temperatures is lethal for poinsettias.
“I’ve seen them die as quickly as overnight,” she said.
While poinsettias are a perennial symbol of Christmas, Serrone said they will live beyond that with proper care. “We like them to get to the last winter holiday, which is the Super Bowl,” he said.
And not too long after a Super Bowl champion is crowned, the next batch of poinsettia cuttings will arrive at Homewood, and the growing team will begin getting ready for Christmas all over again.