Greenhouse on point

Published 9:14 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Off the Water photo/TERRI GORDON Traditional red poinsettias are southwest Michigan's favorite at Christmas time, according to Crystal Springs Florist and Greenhouse in Benton Harbor.

A popular source for locally grown poinsettias is Crystal Springs Florist and Greenhouse in Benton Harbor.  The business has been a family affair for the past 64 years.  Brothers Gerhard and Guenther Siegert immigrated, with their craft, from Germany in 1931.

“They worked at the Klock estate, right here down the road,” said Russell Siegert, Crystal Springs’ manager, and a

Off the Water photo/TERRI GORDON Greenhouse manager Randy Siegert carries a grouping of poinsettias.

third-generation participant in the business.  “They worked hard and saved enough money, and they started a florist business in 1947.  Guenther and Mary Siegert were my grandparents, and Gerhard was my great uncle.  I’ve been in the business since I was 10.”

Russell is joined by his parents, his brother and his wife, Lisa.  Crystal Springs is a full-service florist, with greenhouses devoted to bedding plants, geraniums and poinsettias.

Whether in some of the newer marbled varieties or in traditional reds and whites, poinsettias make wonderful in-home decorations, according to Siegert.

“A lot of people send poinsettias for holiday gifts,” Siegert said.

Understanding the poinsettia is part of appreciating it. Its flowers are the tiny yellow “buttons” in the very center of each colored-leaf cluster.  The colored-leaf cluster, which many confuse to be the flower, is called a bract, and is a special set of leaves that turn color, much like the leaves on the trees outdoors when the days get shorter.

Bright and showy, poinsettias are relatively easy to care for, but Randy Siegert, Russell’s brother and the greenhouse manager, does have a few pointers.

“They don’t like cold drafts, like by doors,” he said.  “They like to dry out.  You can let them go until they just start wilting.”

But they don’t like to be too dry, either. If too dry, the leaves will fall off.  Poinsettias do best in bright light.  Humidity can be increased by placing plants on beds of moist pebbles.

The Siegerts grow their poinsettias from cuttings starting in August.

“We used to do our own cuttings and keep the poinsettias year-round,” said Randy, who can’t remember not working around the greenhouses.

As soon as this poinsettia season is over, it’ll be time to place orders for the cuttings that will arrive in August.

In recent years, shoppers have been offered streaked or splotchy varieties such as “Jingle Bells” or “Winter Rose,” its small, curled display is similar to a  rose with deeper colors, plum and burgundy. “Spiced Orange” is the new offering for 2011.

Tradition reigns supreme in southwest Michigan, however, with red being the bestseller.

“The traditional red and white are still good sellers,” Randy said.

Choosing poinsettias for the home is mostly about color preferences, available space and how they’ll be used. A variety of pot sizes makes them versatile decorations that can be used as centerpieces or to grace atriums, entries and stairways.

Planting fewer plants to a pot and removing side shoots produces larger – and fewer – bracts, while branched poinsettias are encouraged to grow side shoots, producing more – and smaller – bracts.

Good-quality poinsettias should last well into March.

For more tips about poinsettias and other holiday plants, visit Crystal Springs Florist, just west of I-94, in Benton Harbor, at 1475 Pipestone St., or visit