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Coming of Color: Poinsettias

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December 4, 2016
There’s no other plant that embodies the holiday season like the poinsettia. Southern Gardening is visiting Natchez Trace Greenhouses getting into the Christmas spirit. Traditionally, red poinsettias are the first choice of many holiday gardeners. Prestige Red is a great choice with dark green foliage providing the background to display its brilliant red color. Now I need to point out that the colorful “flowers” that we love so much are not flowers at all. They are actually modified leaves called bracts. Let’s take a look at how the greenhouse tricks these bracts into changing color. Because poinsettias naturally change color in the short days of winter in their native Mexico the growers use shade cloth to block light. After several weeks this causes the bracts start to show color. And as we get closer to the Christmas season more color is showing, finally becoming a sea of radiant red. The real flowers are the small bead-like structures called cyathia. Once you get your poinsettias home, carefully remove them and your plants will last longer. Here’s a tip to help you choose your poinsettia regardless of color, always choose a plant in proportion to the container. You can’t go wrong with a poinsettia about 2 ½ time taller than the container. Poinsettias are available in many colors, shapes and sizes, from tree form to 4-inch terra cotta. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.
Department: Agricultural Communications

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