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Tips for Making Your Poinsettia Last

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Women will purchase Eighty percent of the 61 million poinsettia plants sold this year. While most consumers think of poinsettias as the plant with bright red flowers on a green background, in reality the flowers are actually colored bracts or leaves that surround a small, yellowish-green structure that is the true flower.

Plant breeders continue to improve this plant. While red is still the most popular color, pink, salmon and white colored bracts are also available. Even speckled pink and red, and white bracts are now available in cultivars such as Jingle Bells and Monet. Even more recent have been introductions of cultivars with variegated green and yellow leaves, bracts that have sharply pointed lobes that resemble holly leaves and a few that have ruffled bracts. The newer cultivars tend to have a greater number of large flowers on more compact plants.

Although the Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 80 percent of poinsettias in the United States for the wholesale market, poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states. When choosing a poinsettia, make sure you get one with little or no yellow pollen showing on the flower clusters in the center of the bract. Plants that have shed their pollen will soon drop their colorful bracts.

The long-lasting nature of poinsettias can be enjoyed if they receive proper care in your home. The best way to extend their beauty is to match the conditions in which they were grown. Poinsettias are grown in greenhouses where cool temperatures can be maintained between 60 to 75 degrees F. with high humidity and high light intensity. Unfortunately, these conditions don’t exist in most homes in our coastal area. Natural light intensity tends to be quite low and our days are short. The air inside our homes tends to be dry so that relative humidity also becomes quite low.

Follow these tips to make your poinsettia last:

* After you have purchased your poinsettia, make sure it is wrapped properly because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes can damage the bracts and leaves.

* Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place in indirect.  Six hours of light daily is ideal. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.

* Keep poinsettias away for warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers or open doors and windows.

* Ideally poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees F. and nighttime temperatures around 55 degrees F. High temperature swill shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night if possible.

* Check the soil daily.  Be sure to punch holes in the foil so water can drain into a saucer.  Water when the soil is dry.  Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water.  Wilted plants tend to drop bracts sooner.

Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season.  Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month.  Do not fertilize when it is in bloom.

Editor’s Note:This article first appeared on 12/4/13. If you would like to respond to this story go to


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