Ubiquitous at this time of year, poinsettias are often dismissed as too common, or worse, too tacky. (The fact that their pots come swathed in garish foils doesn’t help.) This holiday season, I set out to see if I could reimagine this common Christmas plant–and turned it into a cut flower in an exotic holiday bouquet.
Read on for materials and step-by-step instructions:
Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.
Above: Already better: simply replanting the poinsettia from plastic into an earthy Italian pot makes it looks more warm and natural. And by removing some of the excess leaves, you can also see the more dramatic form of the plant. Each bloom looks like a firework.
Native to Mexico and Central America, poinsettia’s (Euphorbia pulcherrima) commonly come in red, pink and white. For my bouquet, I chose a white poinsettia plant from my local grocery store.
- White poinsettia plant
- Branches of berries or rose hips
- Evergreen boughs (I used leucothe)
- A footed vase or bowl
- Floral foam (available at most craft stores)
- Sturdy scissors or shears
Above: To emphasize the newly discovered wild warmth of my cream colored poinsettia, I chose an unruly spray of persimmon rose hips. These are quite common. I have them in my yard.
Above: Found at Winston Flowers (my favorite local florist), the lush, variegated foliage and crimson buds of Leucothe seemed the perfect complement for my Christmas arrangement. Note: if you can’t find leucothe (you know, that shrub with the clusters of small, white, bell flowers that bloom in spring), then any similarly expressive green will do.
Above: Besides flora, for this bouquet you will need: a pedestal bowl, wet floral foam (available at most craft stores), a candle, and sturdy scissors or shears.
Above: When working with foaming in a shallow bowl, you want to distribute the weight of your specimens evenly on all sides. Otherwise the foam may float and your bouquet will tip.
Cut your foam, if necessary, and place it in the bowl with water. Gently turn the foam over to make sure it’s completely saturated.
Then begin layering your longer pieces (rose hips and leucothe) on each side. First ,measure the specimen to determine the right length. Then give the stem a fresh diagonal cut, leaving about 1.5 inches excess to stick into the foam. Note that you don’t want too much stem in the foam as these will get in the way of the opposite branches and can cause the foam to break apart. Continue to add plants, alternating from one side to the other until your get the desired base.
Above: My base, constructed.
Above: After the poinsettia is cut, a milky sap will bleed from the stem and cause the flower to die quickly. To prolong the life of a cut poinsettia flower, it is necessary to sear the stem before you place it in water.
Above: After cutting the stem to the desired length, sear it by holding the end over a flame, turning it around to scorch all sides, for about five seconds.
Above: A seared poinsettia stem will prevent the sap from bleeding, and still will allow the plant to draw water. Note that it is not necessary to sear where you removed leaves. Only the main stem needs to be cauterized.
Above: Place four or five seared poinsettia flowers toward the center of the arrangement in front and in back.
Above: An explosion of holiday cheer. In a silver pedestal bowl, my poinsettia bouquet is both wild and formal.
Above: A long lasting arrangement; after being seared, cut poinsettia flowers will last more than a week.
Above: My bouquet graces the corner of my dining room. Next year I may try pink poinsettias with purple privet berries. Or, if I’m feeling really adventurous, I might even attempt something with the red poinsettias (perhaps pairing them with white gooseberries and black pearl amaryllis).
For more growing tips, see Poinsettias: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Explore more outside-the-box ways to arrange this common holiday flower:
- Christmas Miracle: 5 Poinsettias That Aren’t Tacky
- And then there’s always the poinsettia cocktail, served at during A Woodland Holiday Party