Poinsettia is top-selling potted plant

As we remember the heroes of Pearl Harbor, today we turn our attention to the poinsettia, widely known as the Christmas flower. Although the Euphorbia pulcherrima has no direct tie to Jesus or the Christmas story and was only introduced to our country in 1825 it has become the floral symbol for the holidays in our country. Plant loving Joel Poinsett, who was our first ambassador to Mexico, discovered the colorful poinsettia growing wild in southern Mexico and sent starts back to his native South Carolina and growers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It has rapidly grown in popularity over the years to become the top selling potted plant in the United States even though all are sold in just a few weeks each year.

Breeding has produced longer lasting and ever more colorful bracts. The bright red, pink, white and multicolored bracts are modified leaves that have changed colors and draw our attention while the true flower at the center of these impressive bracts is really not very exciting. Today’s poinsettia plants and bracts will stay colorful for many weeks or even months when cared for properly.

Select poinsettias with dark green foliage in many varieties and colors from 3” pixie plants to 14” tubs and hanging baskets. The plants will hold up longer if the foliage is on the plant all the way down to the soil line. Choose plants with bracts that are completely colored without a lot of green or brown edges on the bracts. Choose a plant that looks full, balanced and attractive from all sides and is not drooping or wilting.

Poinsettias need a lot of air movement so be careful buying plants displayed or crowded together or displayed in plastic or paper sleeves pulled up around the plants. If you are transporting the plant outdoors in cool or cold temperatures below 50° that is the time to sleeve or box the plant to help extend its life.

When you get your poinsettias home they will do best with good indirect natural light for at least 6 hours daily. They will do great by windows but make sure the bracts and foliage are not actually touching cold windows. Do not place them in a drafty spot by open doors, windows, heaters or air registers. They do best with day temperatures of 60° to 70° and night temperatures of 55°. Extended high temperatures will shorten the life of the bracts so you might move them to a cooler room at night.

Watering is the most important part of caring for poinsettias. Check the soil daily and water when the soil feels dry. If you have the plant wrapped in foil or a plastic pot cover you should punch holes in the bottom to allow the water to drain into a saucer where you can dispose of extra water instead of allowing the plant to stand in water.  I hope you get to enjoy poinsettias as part of your Christmas celebrations.

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