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Poinsettias come in many colors

Posted: December 8, 2013 - 1:01am

Poinsettias are one of the more popular holiday plants. Most are sold in a six-week period leading up to Christmas, with sales totaling approximately $60 million.

There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available, but red poinsettias remain the favorite. The colored parts of poinsettias that most think are flowers are actually modified leaves, called bracts. The true flowers are the round, yellow structures, or cyathia, in the center of the bracts.

The length of time a poinsettia will remain vibrant is dependent on the maturity of the plant, when it was purchased and its care. With proper care and controlled conditions, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks. Some varieties will stay attractive for months.

When choosing a poinsettia, avoid plants with yellow pollen shedding from the flower clusters. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after shedding pollen. Also, choose a plant with dark-green foliage down to the soil line. The bracts also should be completely colored. Don’t purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges or with fallen or yellowed leaves.

Be wary of plants that have been crowded together, which can cause premature bract loss. The plant should be 2½ times taller than the diameter of the container and appear full. It also is important to test the soil for moisture. If the soil is wet to the touch and the plant is wilted, this could be an indication of root rot. Check the underside of leaves for insects like aphids and whiteflies.

Be sure the plant is carefully wrapped before bringing it home. Exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees, even for a few minutes, can damage the plant. Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place it in indirect light in a warm, sunny location away from drafts or heat sources. Six hours of light daily is ideal. If placed in a window, position the plant to avoid touching cold windows and remove it at night.

Poinsettias are very sensitive to the environment. Drafts, cold, heat, dim light, low humidity or improper watering may cause these plants to wilt or shed leaves. Ideally, poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees and night time temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees. Check soil dampness daily. When the soil is dry to the touch, water thoroughly.

With the proper care, a poinsettia will last six to eight weeks in your home.

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