Putting the Poinsettia Season to Bed

December 12, 2003 - 08:13

The final word

Wow! It's almost Christmas! If you are a poinsettia grower
or retailer, you should be finished shipping and almost finished selling, with
only churches and special customers still remaining. Hopefully, the
poinsettia-selling season was good for you, which means you sold all you had
without reducing the price too much. If you are still staring at a lot of
poinsettias, it usually means the quality of what's left is poor, the weather
has been awfully cold for the last few weekends or you're pricing too high. In
any case, now is a good time to start recapping the poinsettia season so you
can forget about it once the holidays hit and start anew for the spring season.

Recapping Production and Sales

I work with my clients to get them to summarize their
production seasons as well as their sales. Looking at production, it is
important to determine if your growing plan is correct or not and then make the
necessary corrections. Getting your poinsettia-growing plan outlined and updated
is critical to success year after year.

I hear about many growers never having problems until a
particular year or variety. A growing plan should include all cultural and
environmental factors, as well as operational issues, such as pinching,
spacing, etc. This plan should be laid out on a weekly basis. Each variety and
pot size should have its own growing plan, schedule and graphical track. The
two most important areas for improvement in producing poinsettias are: 1)
correct schedules for each variety and pot size and 2) using graphical tracking
for height control.

Sales needs to be recapped each year along with production.
Take good notes on what sold when and to whom and what did not sell well. Try
to find out why some poinsettias did not sell well (poor quality, too many,
loss of a customer, etc.). Are you selling to the same customer base, or are
you expanding or contracting your number of customers? Did you have to drop
prices? When and why? Are you missing some sales by not having enough ready
early, not having the right color mix, not having enough sizes or not
displaying the product properly? (When selling purple poinsettias, never group
them next to reds, as they will look awful. Group them with white poinsettias
for best display.)

New Sizes, Markets and Varieties

Typically, 6-inch poinsettias are a commodity item. I see
more and more growers producing larger sizes and selling them for a good price.
There is also interest in smaller sizes, but be careful about overproducing.
Look into different containers, such as color bowls, strawberry jars, baskets,
centerpiece containers and combinations. I have heard that fundraisers have
declined in certain parts of the country, but churches will always want lots of
poinsettias, albeit late in the season. If you have a retail garden center, you
can have a lot of fun promoting poinsettias, as customers always enjoy the mass
of color at this time of year.

Every year, sales and production should go over new
varieties and changes to their current product mix. Make sure you get to one of
the poinsettia trials at Purdue, NC State or Florida, or at another university
near you. Check out the new varieties at trade shows throughout the year. Get
as much information as you can about them, and bring them in for a trial on a
correct schedule (not late!). Once you start producing new varieties, emphasize
the newness to your customers ahead of time. 

Calculating Production Cost

I often hear that poinsettias are not profitable but can be grown
and sold for cash flow purposes. With more pressure from box stores for a $2
6-inch poinsettia, it's no wonder growers are concerned. However, let me ask
one question: When was the last time you really figured out your cost of
production for poinsettias? I mentioned this in a previous column about Bill
Swanekamp's talk at the OFA Short Course this past year. Bill's experience
running Kube-Pak Corp., Allentown, N.J., has shown him that he needed to figure
his cost of production for the first six months of the year differently than
the last six months, instead of taking a yearly cost. Once he refigured his
costs, he found out it was profitable to produce poinsettias. For more
information on Bill's talk, buy the tape from OFA or contact Bill at (609) 259-3114
or wswanekamp@aol.com. Even if you still cannot calculate poinsettias as
profitable, they may be necessary for cash flow, as you have little to sell
from fall to spring.

On to Next Year

So, what do you do for next year? Once your growing plans have
been updated; sales reviewed; and new varieties, pot sizes and markets decided
on, you can put together next year's order in time to take advantage of
early-order discounts (EOD). Once you put your cutting order in, put all of the
plans in a file with a tickle date of late May. You can bring the plans out for
review in early June before actually starting up the season. This way, everyone
is on the same page as far as production and sales for the coming year.

If you do your own stock, you may be getting poinsettia
stock cuttings coming as early as late February or early March. Make sure to
have a separate growing plan for your stock production, which should be
reviewed one week before cuttings show up. I know, that's right when everyone
is busy with spring season! But you need to get the cuttings and stock off to a
good start, or you will be buying cuttings in to make up for not paying enough
attention to stock plants.

Poinsettias can be a tough crop, with a long crop time and
particular growing conditions. To be successful year after year, you need to
have correct schedules, detailed growing plans and a solid sales plan. Review
everything once the season is basically over, before everyone takes vacation
and forgets the details. Make your adjustments for next year well in advance,
and stay close to your market for new varieties, pot sizes and usages. As you
will find out, growing and selling poinsettias can be easy, fun and profitable
after all!

About The Author

Roger Styer is the leading greenhouse production consultant and president of Styer's Horticultural Consulting, Inc., Batavia, Ill. He can be reached by phone at (630) 208-0542 or E-mail at carleton@voyager.net.

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