by margaret

The holiday season is upon us and more and more decorations
are going up all around my neighborhood. I’m also spotting one of my favorite
holiday plants on doorsteps, in windows, and set up on dining tables of friends’
houses: the poinsettia. Most often seen with those large red blooms, there are
a few things most people don’t know about the poinsettia. For one, they can
come in a variety of colors aside from red including pink, and white, and those
brightly colored “flowers” aren’t actually flowers at all, but modified leaves
called bracts.

Before you can decorate with poinsettias, however, you’ll
want to know what to look for when buying your holiday plants and how to take
care of them. Start by checking the whole plant for coloring. You’ll want even
the lowest portion all the way down to the soil to be a dark green and any of
the bracts on the plant should be completely filled in with color. If the
bracts have green edges, the leaves are wilting or falling off, or the plants
are crowded together, then you’ll want to move on to another retailer. Look
also at the true flowers of the plant in the center of the colorful bracts. If
these clusters have yellow pollen on them, rather than being green or
red-tipped, then the blooms won’t last long after you get the plant home.

Once you’ve chosen the poinsettia you want, take it home and
set it where it will receive only indirect light hopefully for six hours each day.
Poinsettias enjoy being where they can relax in 60 to 70 degree day time
temperatures and cool nights, no cooler than 55 degrees at night. Take care to keep
the plant from drafts (warm or cold) and don’t let it touch chilled windows by
accident. If your plant is going to stay outside for the season, then cover it
over when night time temperatures are going to be lower than 50 degrees.

For optimum growth and beauty, punch a few holes into the
foil surrounding the plant’s pot and make sure the plant can drain away excess
water. You’ll want to water the poinsettia when it is dry, but too much water
can lead to root rot and dropped leaves and bracts. Check on the poinsettia
each day and dump out any excess water from saucers. Once the holiday season is
over, your poinsettia can use a little pick me up with basic houseplant
fertilizer applied monthly, but don’t feed if your plant is still in bloom. The
good news is that the poinsettia isn’t a demanding or difficult plant to tend
to and under the right care will last for many months beyond the Christmas
season.

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