Behind Biltmore Poinsettias
All Things Biltmore • 10/29/14
Written By Sharon Bell
The Winter Garden is known as one of Biltmore’s premier displays of holiday greenery during Christmas at Biltmore. Throughout the years, this room has hosted countless musicians, carolers, and even ballerinas during the holidays, all surrounded by the beauty of red, pink, and white poinsettias. In fact, nearly 100 poinsettias adorn this room alone, with grand total of 1,200 poinsettias decorating the estate through the season.
From November 7 through January 11, the poinsettias are strategically placed, rotated, and replaced to provide the best color. However, many guests are surprised to find out just how complex these hearty plants are–and that for about half of these plants, their journey on the estate begins much earlier.
“Each February, my crew and I decide what poinsettias we would like to have for the next year's displays,” says Conservatory Gardener Jordana Chalnick. “Last year we had a red poinsettia with white splotches for the front display; this year we will use a pink variegated poinsettia.” Once the varietals are determined, the poinsettias are grown from rooted cuttings inside Biltmore production greenhouses starting in July.
What makes these plants unique is that they are a short-day photoperiod crop, meaning they naturally flower when the nights become longer than the days. Some varieties need to be covered with a black cloth, sheltering them from all light, to force them to bloom at the desired time.
Jordana explains that timing is key. “We grow two crops of poinsettias for two target dates: November 2 and December 1. A shorter finish week means the plant will color earlier. This would be a variety we select for early November. A longer finish week means it will color later, and these are the varieties we select for December 1. Development is monitored to determine if we will need to cover them and if so, the plants are covered in the evening with a black cloth beginning in September for five to six weeks,” she says.
Although Biltmore does not have the space or staff to grow all of the poinsettias used during the holidays, the remaining plants come from two growers in North Carolina. From propagating the poinsettia cuttings, to monitoring their light exposure, to placing and replacing each plant around the estate, our horticulture team does an excellent job year after year–just one of their many jobs during Christmas at Biltmore!