Poinsettias Anyone? Now’s the time!Master Gardener Scoop –– December 23, 2015

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Now’s the time for many stores to begin putting Poinsettia plants on sale. I purchased four before December 5th. Three are bright red and one is a pinkish color with yellow/white edging. There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today according to Ron Wolford, University of Illinois Extension educator. They are available today in a myriad of colors from burgundy, red, pinks and whites. Poinsettias present quite a challenge to keep healthy because of the dry indoor environments in many of our homes.

I really like to have some poinsettias in my home at Christmastime in addition to some Christmas Cacti. They just make things more beautiful, especially if you enjoy plants that bloom in winter. I’ve done articles on Christmas Cacti before, so it’s time for my input on Poinsettias.

I have researched through the University of Illinois Extension’s website and learned that Poinsettias represent 80 percent of all potted plant sales in the USA during the Christmas season. Since there are more than 100 varieties, shop around and enjoy.

I’ll share some tips to keep your Poinsettias alive and healthy:

1. When your Poinsettia is in bloom, do NOT fertilize. Houseplant fertilizer can be applied once a month after it quits blooming.

2. I used to have hard luck with them until I learned through research that I was watering them too much. Some of the instructions say to keep the soil moist. You should water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch. Punch holes in the decorative foil to allow water to drain through. Put something under to catch water so you do not ruin your nice furniture. After watering thoroughly, empty any water in the pot’s saucer or container it sits in.

3. Place your Poinsettia near a south window (I prefer) or a west or east facing window. They need six hours of indirect sunlight. The bracts will fade if they receive too much sunlight.

4. 65-70 degree indoor temperatures are ideal for long plant life. You can use lower temps at night which will help extend the color show, but temperatures of over 80 degrees will shorten their life. Therefore, keep your Poinsettias away from cold or warm drafts which could cause premature leaf drop.

5. When purchasing your Poinsettias, get ones with full colored bracts and tightly closed flower buds. After the flower buds have completely opened, they will start to decline.

6. Before leaving the store with your new Poinsettias, if it is lower than 50 degrees out, be sure it is wrapped well. Just a short walk to our vehicles can really damage the bracts and also the leaves.

The University of Illinois Extension has verified that Poinsettia plants are not poisonous. However, there are people who are very sensitive to the plant’s sap which can cause some uncomfortable skin irritation.

Pets should be kept away from the plants because they can cause mild irritation or nausea.

Merry Christmas to your home from my home!

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Poinsettias Anyone? Now’s the time!