Make your home merry and bright with poinsettias

Millions of poinsettias are purchased each year as decorations and gifts. What most consumers do not know is poinsettias require a lot of love and attention or they won’t make it to your holiday festivities. Buy poinsettias this holiday season from local growers and keep them vibrant with a few “don’ts” from a previous poinsettia grower.

Poinsettias require an ideal environment to grow– a task far more complex than other crops grown in a greenhouse. The growing tasks involve a strict water and fertilizer regimen to encourage good root growth but not too much top growth, followed by applications of plant growth regulators if the plants get too tall and leggy.

While growing this crop, the management of pests brings limitations, and getting a full display of colorful bracts by market date requires curtains to blackout all light every night. Poinsettia growing requirements must be tended to daily for several weeks for a colorful crop.

The ideal plant is short and has large colorful bracts. Bracts are the showy colored parts of poinsettias often referred to as flowers but are actually modified leaves. It would seem that after so much fuss during the growing process, the care of these plants would be difficult. However, a few easy tips on what not to do with your holiday treasure can have your plant flourishing throughout the holiday season.

  • Don’t buy poinsettias with opened flowers. The small, yellow flowers located in the center of the bracts should still be tightly closed when purchasing.
  • Do not put poinsettias in direct sunlight. They will stay fresher with a few hours of indirect light each day.
  • Do not place plants near heating vents or doors. Poinsettias stay the freshest in a cool room, away from drafts. Temperatures should be no lower than 55 F and no higher than 70 F. The ideal temperature to keep these plants healthy and vibrant is 65 F.
  • Only water poinsettias when dry. Allow plants to dry out between watering. If there is any weight when you pick up the container, wait another day to water, but do not let the soil recede from the side of the plants. Both insufficient and too much water will cause the lower leaves to yellow and drop. Never allow plants to sit in saucers of water or foil wraps. Instead, opt for watering and draining in the kitchen sink or a bucket.
  • Do not expose poinsettias to cold temperatures. Most greenhouses/garden centers wrap poinsettias for transport outside. Do not leave poinsettias in your car or outside for prolonged periods. Sudden temperature fluctuations will cause them to drop their leaves.
  • Do not expect to keep them as houseplants after the holidays. Although some do and are very successful, the strict growing requirements can make it a difficult task for the plant enthusiast. The typical holiday poinsettia lasts about eight weeks. Elect to keep other holiday favorites like Christmas cactus, Kalanchoe and amaryllis bulbs that can make interesting house plants.
  • Do not be afraid that poinsettias are toxic to your animals. Although care should be taken to prevent ingestion, poinsettias are only considered mildly toxic, and serious complications are rare.
  • Do not be afraid of colors that are not red. Try something new this year and appreciate the beauty and variation of these
    holiday plants!

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