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Dave Wallis, Published December 04 2011

Portraits: Tom Steele

“In the spring there are a lot of people here, but right now there’s nobody here but me,” says Tom Steele, a 39-year employee at Shotwell Floral and Greenhouses in Fargo as he is surrounded by a thousand bright-red poinsettia plants, which are one of the traditional and most popular holiday flowers. “Red is still the primary color,” he says of the 85 percent in that color. “We also have some white, pink, burgundy and marble ones,” he adds. The plants have been there since the first part of November. “We finish them here with water and fertilizer. That’s about it,” he says. He adds, “You have to make sure they don’t get any extra light at night. The reason they turn colors is when they start getting over 12 hours of darkness a night. If you have them in a home and turn the lights on, they’ll revert back to green. They need over 12 hours to turn colors.” As far as the proper pronunciation, “poinsetta” or “poinsettia”, Paul Ecke, or Mr. Poinsettia as he was called, (a man who helped revolutionize the way the plants are bred, produced and sold) said either pronunciation is fine.