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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Poinsettia Pointers

Gardening

Poinsettia Pointers

Create a blaze of eye-popping color in your home this holiday season

Column by Kathleen Rieman of Grange Co-op

 

A big part of the fun and beauty of the Christmas season is the colorful decorations we use in homes, offices and places of business. As the weather gets less lovely, we tend to brighten our indoor spaces with fragrant evergreens, candles, shiny decorations and, of course, poinsettias!

Today’s poinsettia comes in over a hundred varieties of red, pink, cream white, raspberry, soft salmon and many other multi-colored choices. Using only poinsettias, you can create a blaze of eye-popping color that lasts well into the New Year.

Just a few basic guidelines will help you succeed with your poinsettia decorations.

Selecting your poinsettia

  • Poinsettia foliage should be dark green down to the soil, and the flower bracts (the colored leaves) should be evenly colored, without white or dark marks or tears. 
  • There should be no yellow or green on bract leaves, nor any drooping or wilting foliage.
  • There should be no soggy soil or water inside a wrap.
  • Poinsettias should not be displayed in a ‘sleeve’; use sleeves only to transport your poinsettia.
  • Poinsettias should be exposed to outside temps below 50°F for only a very short time on the way home. Make shopping for poinsettias the last item on your shopping list, so they don’t wait in the car for you on a cold shopping day!
  • Avoid getting water, especially cold, on the colored bract leaves—this creates ugly gray or black marks.

 

Taking Care of your Poinsettia

  • Tear off the bag or sleeve you used bringing the plant home; don’t try to pull out through the top. Poinsettia blooms (called bracts) are tender and easily damaged.
  • Site your poinsettia in bright light—four to six hours per day, if possible.
  • Display your beautiful poinsettia where there are no hot or cold drafts—away from doors, fireplaces or heaters. 
  • Check the soil daily; water when the surface is dry to the touch. Water thoroughly using tepid, warmish water. No feeding required.
  • Please, do not water plants in a wrap or pot without drainage. Water at the sink, allowing your plant to drip-dry. Then replace the plant with a waterproof saucer (protecting furniture and flooring) in your display location.
  • Though poinsettias come from the tropics, they prefer daytime temperatures of 60 to 70°F, and around 50 to 55°F at night. The poinsettia flower bracts last longer in cool-to-mild temperatures rather than warm-to-hot.

Poinsettia History and Legend

  • Poinsettias grow naturally in Mexico, Central and South America, and were discovered by early Spanish explorers—known from records found in botanical writings dating from the 17th century. Aztecs had many uses for the plant. They called it Cuetlaxochitl, and later Franciscan missionaries called it “la flor de Nochebuena”, or Christmas Eve flower.
  • The Mexican legend of Pepita was part of the popularity and sentiment behind giving poinsettias in South American countries. Pepita was a poor child whose gift of a bouquet of weedy flowers given to baby Jesus burst into red blooms when she laid them in the church crèche.
  • The poinsettia was named for Joel R. Poinsett, 1st U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, who introduced them to the U.S. in 1825.
  • The Paul Ecke ranch in California was responsible for most of the research that has resulted in the amazing diversity of the modern poinsettia.  
  • December 12 is National Poinsettia Day!                                                                                                                                         

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