Richard Murray, owner and operator of Hilltop Greenhouses in Saanich, stands among some of the 100,000 poinsettias they grow and sell each holiday season, the only large-scale producer on the south Island. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

A visit with the south Island’s only commercial poinsettia producer

Hilltop Greenhouses in Saanich grows 100,000 poinsettias a year

There’s only one major poinsettia producer on the south Island and business is strong.

Hilltop Greenhouses on West Burnside Road in Saanich started in the early 1970s and while poinsettia producers around the country are rare, business is steady with poinsettias covering a good range of Hilltop’s four-acre covered growing space.

The family run company sells most of the 100,000 poinsettias it grows each year on the Island. They can be found at grocery chains, independent florists and garden centres and are becoming a popular fundraising item.

“That’s a growing segment for us, churches, schools, clubs and hockey teams,” said Richard Murray, whose parents started the business. “Some groups buy 1,000 plants off us, groups from as far as Parksville-Qualicum, it’s a big fundraiser for them.”

There are easier crops to grow than poinsettias. “Unrooted cuttings” are planted in June and July and Hilltop grows about 20 different varieties, mostly reds, yellows and combinations as such. They sell as four-inch, six-inch and 10-inch plants.

“They’re not easy, they’re pretty tricky actually, but with years of experience, it’s repeatable,” Murray said.

Otherwise, Hilltop produces bedding plants and hanging plants in the spring, and relies on a daily harvest of long English cucumber production in the summer. Workers are still picking cukes three times a week in December, albeit from a smaller crop.

The City of Victoria and Butchart Gardens are known to grow poinsettias but not for sale.

For now, it’s poinsettia season at Hilltop, though the floor of one greenhouse is covered in fuschia seedlings ahead of Mother’s Day, the next crop in an ongoing cycle. Hilltop poinsettias are only sold at a commercial level but are easy enough to find in stores around town.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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