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Williams: Pamper your holiday poinsettia to keep it looking good

Posted: December 6, 2017 - 1:31am
Most poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to Christmas, with sales totaling around $60 million.
Most poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to Christmas, with sales totaling around $60 million.

Poinsettias are one of the most popular potted plants in the United States grown specifically for the Christmas market. Most poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to that holiday, with sales totaling around $60 million. They are found in many homes and businesses during the winter holidays in a wide array of colors: red, pink, white and variegated varieties. There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available, but red poinsettias still dominate sales over all other color options.

The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think are the flowers are actually modified leaves called bracts. The true flowers are the yellowish button‐like structures, or cyathia, in the center of the bracts. When choosing a poinsettia, avoid plants with yellow pollen shedding from the flower clusters. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.

The length of time a poinsettia will be vibrant in a home is dependent on the maturity of the plant, when you buy it, and how you care for the plant. With care, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks, and some varieties will stay attractive for months.

When selecting a poinsettia, choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line, along with bracts (modified leaves) that are completely colored. The poinsettia should look full, balanced and attractive from all sides. Don't purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges or plants with fallen or yellowed leaves. The plant should be 2½ times taller than the diameter of the container.

Also be wary of purchasing plants that have been displayed or crowded close together. Crowding can cause premature bract loss. Check the plant's soil. If it's wet and the plant is wilted, this could be an indication of root rot. Check undersides of leaves for insects like aphids and whiteflies. Check the poinsettia's maturity. Check the true flowers, which are located at the base of the colored bracts. If the flowers are green or red-tipped and fresh-looking, the bloom will "hold" longer than if yellow pollen is covering the flowers.

After you have made your poinsettia selection, make sure it is carefully wrapped when bringing it home.

Exposure to low temperatures, when outdoor temperatures are below 50°F, even for a few minutes, can damage the bracts and leaves and will result in leaf drop. Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place in indirect light. They should be placed in a warm, sunny location away from cold drafts or heat sources. Six hours of light daily is ideal. If placed in a window, keep the plant from touching cold window panes and remove it at night so it will not get too cold.

Poinsettias are very sensitive to environment. Drafts, cold, heat, dim light, low humidity or improper watering may cause these plants to wilt or shed leaves and flowers. It's a good idea to keep them out of high-traffic areas. Ideally, poinsettias will get daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and night time temperatures around 55 to 60 degrees.

Check the soil daily to determine whether the plant needs water. When the soil is dry to the touch, water thoroughly. Be sure to punch holes in foil or other decorative wraps on the container so water can drain into a saucer. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner. With proper care, a poinsettia will last 6-8 weeks.


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