For a unique and festive look in holiday arrangements, try Euphorbia fulgens. You probably won’t find it at your local grocery store but it is available from florists, although you may have to ask them to order it for you. A native of Mexico, it is grown primarily in Holland for the florist trade and is plentiful from October to January, making it a good selection for fall and holiday arrangements.
The long arching branches of “flowers” are best used in large arrangements. The flowers are actually small and inconspicuous but are surrounded by colored bracs that look like flowers. The bracts come in many colors including orange, yellow, white, pink, gold, and red.
When buying scarlet plume, look for stems that have open bracts and healthy green foliage. The true flowers are best if green and unopened. If necessary, store the branches at about 45-50 degrees (warmer than most refrigerators), removing all foliage below the water line. When putting the flowers in an arrangement, remove all the foliage because the foliage tends to yellow quickly and detract from the flowers.
Scarlet plume is closely related to Euphorbia pulcherrima, the poinsettia and like many species in the Euphorbia family, it has a latex sap which flows out of the cut stem. This sap can irritate the skin of some people and cause a rash that looks something like poison ivy, so wearing gloves when handling it is recommended.
When using stems of scarlet plume many florists treat the cut end to stop the flow of the sap. This can be done by dipping the newly cut ends in rubbing alcohol or boiling water, or passing it over a flame. This needs to be done every time the stem is cut so plan accordingly.