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Poinsettias Accent The Holiday Season
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The United States has not been the same during the holidays since Ambassador Joel Poinset brought a plant back from Mexico in 1825. Poinsettias have become a tradition, and some new gorgeous varieties will be showing up this year.
Pepride is a new variety that has caught my eye. Its dark green leaves and deep red bracts are shaped like oak leaves. Freedom is a dark red variety with dark green leaves. It is awfully hard to find a prettier poinsettia than this one.
Silver Star is another poinsettia that has garnered my attention. This variety has dark red bracts but a variegated foliage of silver and green. I also like the Sonora Jingle Bells, which has dark red bracts with white flecks, giving it a peppermint look.
Monet is my favorite pink variety. Unless you prefer red, this may be the most beautiful poinsettia ever developed. The bracts are pink with drifts of a darker pink or burgundy, giving it a painted look. Marble Star is another great pink variety with a creamy white variegation that gives it a marble look.
One myth that has hung around for years is that poinsettias are poisonous. Research at Ohio State University has proven conclusively that the poinsettia plant and its juices are not poisonous.
Poinsettias can hold their color way past Christmas if you shop wisely. The colorful parts of a poinsettia are actually modified leaves known as bracts. The true flowers are the small yellow buttons in the centers of the bracts. Look for plants with fully mature, thoroughly colored and expanded bracts, and small green flower buds.
Select plants with dark green foliage down to the soil line. This indicates a healthy root system. Reject plants with damaged or discolored foliage and select symmetrical plants in proportion to their containers. As a rule of thumb, poinsettias should be 2 1/2 times bigger than their pots. In other words, a 15- to 18-inch-tall plant looks best in a 6-inch container.
Durable plants promise weeks of enjoyment. Look for strong, stiff stems, good leaf and bract retention, and no signs of wilting, breaking or drooping. Carefully inspect packaged poinsettias before purchasing them. Poinsettias left in sleeves for an extended period of time may become unhealthy.
Transport poinsettias carefully. Strong winds or short term exposure to temperatures below 40 degrees can permanently damage the plants. Use plant sleeves or large shopping bags for added protection in cold weather.
During the holidays, use the poinsettia for decorative effects. When possible, place the plant in the sunniest exposure in your home. A window that faces south, east or west is better than one facing north. Don't let the bracts touch the cold window panes, since freezing outdoor temperatures can cause damage.
Your poinsettia was greenhouse grown at day temperatures of 70 to 72 degrees and night temperatures of about 60 degrees. Your plant will last longer if you provide similar temperatures.
Two problems most often encountered with poinsettias center around watering. With the busy holiday season, forgetting to water can be disastrous for a poinsettia.
Examine the soil daily. When the surface is dry to the touch, water until it runs freely out the drainage hole in the container. The second major problem results from decorative wraps that can trap water and suffocate the roots. Be sure to pour out any excess water.
Mississippi growers produce more than a quarter million of the poinsettias named after the ambassador, so you can enjoy a beautiful, healthy poinsettia this holiday season.