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Poinsettia pointers: Make your home festive with this classic holiday staple

FRANKLIN LIVING—Poinsettias are a simple, beautiful way to make your home festive for the holiday season. Growing up, my mom would purchase them to match her décor and add items to embellish them such as greenery, beautiful fabric bows, ornaments and other accessories.

Poinsettias can be purchased almost anywhere, such as a local nursery, chain store garden centers and florists, and they are even located at the entry of local one-stop shopping stores. Therefore, there is no excuse not to have your home festive for the holidays!

Poinsettias come in numerous colors, such as pink, white and bicolored, but red is still the number one color choice when it comes to sales. At one time there was a yellow variety, but it was not considered a great holiday color.

Here are some ways to make your home festive this holiday season using poinsettias:

  1. Place them in decorative containers such as silver urns, brass urns, baskets, wooden bowls, etc. Add items such as bows, greenery and ornaments to spruce them up!
  2. Display them in a grouping. I like to group in odd numbers.
  3. Place cut stems in vases by themselves or with holiday greenery such as magnolia, cedar, holly or pine and nandina berries.
  4. Place them on your dining table, entryway table, kitchen island or coffee table, by your fireplace or stairs or in the bedroom and bathroom. You can also place them by pieces of furniture that you want to stand out, like tables and chairs. For a festive bathroom, try holiday-themed guest towels and a scented candle plus a poinsettia plant in a decorative container.
  5. Make the outside of your home welcoming by grouping poinsettias outside your front door.
  6. Take the use of poinsettias a step further and make a poinsettia Christmas tree!

They also make great gifts!

Selection and Care of Poinsettias

One of the most popular flowering potted plants in U.S., the poinsettia hits its peak in popularity during the holidays. Did you know – the colorful parts are actually the bracts of the small, green inconspicuous flowers in the center of the plant.

SELECTION

Make sure to buy a high-quality plant. It should have flowers that are tightly closed or just beginning to open, and it should appear full, with uniformly dark green leaves from top to base. Other tips for choosing the perfect poinsettia include:

  • Leaves should be completely free of insects and disease.
  • Plant should be strong enough to stand on its own without staking.
  • Don’t buy a plant that has been stored in a sleeve or looks wilted and whose soil appears wet.

Ask for a protective sleeve to shield the plant from the wind, rain and cold temperatures when you leave the store. Cold air – below 50 degrees – can cause severe shock and leaf drop. Once your poinsettia has made it home, keep these tips in mind for its care and keeping.

CARE

  1. The plant will last much longer if you place it in an optimum location that suits its needs. Poinsettias like bright, but not direct, sunlight – such as near a sunny window. Direct sun will discolor the bracts, but low light causes leaf drop.
  2. Poinsettias have no tolerance for moisture extremes. Make sure to keep it neither too wet nor too dry.
  3. Avoid temperature extremes, like drafty locations and heat vents. Maintain a temperature no higher than 70 degrees, and try placing the plant in a pan of gravel half-filled with water to keep humidity higher around the plant in a dry winter home.
  4. Don’t fertilize until after Christmas, if you plan to keep it around after the holiday. When the time comes, use a soluble fertilizer, 1/4 teaspoon to one gallon of water, once a month until April.

POST-HOLIDAY CARE

Poinsettias are perennial and can last many years with the proper care. They will be at their most attractive in your home for two to four weeks but can flourish six to eight weeks with excellent care. After that you will need to move them outdoors to continue their post-holiday care, if you wish to keep them.

In early April cut the plant back to 6 or 8 inches and place it outside in the shade. Continue to water, and fertilize regularly when new growth begins. Re-pot to a larger pot in May; use potting mix similar to what it has been growing in. Pinch growing tips every 4-6 weeks during the summer to make the plant bushy, stopping after Sept. 1.

Bring the plant indoors before the threat of cool weather to prepare to enjoy for another holiday season!

REFLOWERING

A poinsettia is a short-day plant, so you must decrease the day length – or photoperiod – in fall to stimulate flowering. Day length should not exceed 10 hours.

Beginning Oct. 1 for eight to ten weeks, place the plant in complete darkness every day from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Do not expose the plant to a single burst of light during this dark period. During the day, place it in bright, indirect sunlight. Your plant should be in flower by December.

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