For many, the Christmas holidays just aren't the same without a bright, red poinsettia sitting on the hearth. But the poinsettia, long seen as the plant of choice during the holidays, can last well past December.
"Poinsettias will last a long time beyond the holiday season if they are taken care of," said Judy Sanderlin, the owner of the 40-year-old Sanderlin Green Houses in Appling. "After the days get long, in late March or April, you can prune back the shoots, and it will make a pretty green house plant that will last well into spring."
Keeping your plant healthy enough to reach that stage is key.
According to Sanderlin, many poinsettias won't be "completely colored" for another week or so. For those who buy poinsettias this week, it is imperative to place your plant in a sunny spot so the color will brighten.
"The bright morning sun is best for poinsettias," said Sanderlin, because the sunlight will enhance the color of the blooms. As the nights become longer and the days shorter, the color will begin to deepen and brighten in the blooms.
"In most houses, if you water your plant every three days, you'll be fine," said Sanderlin. "Never let it dry out, and never let it sit in water."
Those two rules -- not too dry and not too wet -- are the keys to a long-lasting poinsettia.
"If you buy a poinsettia that is wrapped in foil, pierce the bottom of the paper to allow the water to drain, and discard the excess water," Sanderlin said. "If you allow the plant to sit in water, the roots will sour."
Of course, how much water your plant will need depends on the warmth and coolness of the individual home, but Sanderlin's rule of thumb is to water your plant every few days. Once the color comes in, the plant will take less and less water.
Along with adequate water, poinsettias also need proper attention when it comes to temperature. Sanderlin suggests keeping the poinsettia above 50 degrees for prolonged blooming.
"And, once you buy a poinsettia, don't leave it in your car," she said. "It doesn't need to stay in the car while you do more shopping. Go ahead and take it on home."
Sanderlin said the rising temperature of a closed car can be harmful to the plant.
Above all, Sanderlin said the long-circulated rumor that the poinsettia is poisonous is completely unfounded.
"They are not poisonous," said Sanderlin. "Several years ago, several universities did extensive tests and did not find any toxicity. Unless you eat the whole plant -- and I don't think anybody will do that -- then it is not harmful."
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