Tags Posts tagged with "poinsettia"

poinsettia

by -
0 425
Poinsettia

Poinsettias and their rich red, white or variegated color schemes are the ideal backdrop for Christmas celebrations. In fact, poinsettias are among the most popular decorative flowers during the holiday season.  

Indigenous to Central America, the plant was introduced to North America in the 1820s when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, brought the red-and-green plant back with him from a trip abroad.

While millions of poinsettias will be purchased for the holiday season, many mistakenly think their utility ends once New Year’s Day has come and gone. But with proper care poinsettia plants can continue to thrive and bring warmth and beauty to a home long after the holiday decorations have been tucked away.

Choose a hearty plant 

Experts with the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science say that many people mistake the plant’s leaves for its flowers. The red, white or pink bracts are actually modified leaves. The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center called “cyathia.” Choose poinsettia plants that have buds which are, ideally, not yet open.

Keep the temperature consistent

Poinsettias prefer a room temperature between 60 and 68 F during the day and 10 degrees cooler at night. Humidity levels between 20 and 50 percent are ideal. Group plants on water-filled trays full of pebbles to help increase humidity levels. 

Place near sunlight 

The United Kingdom-based Perrywood floral company advises placing poinsettia plants near a bright windowsill but not in direct sunlight. Do not let a poinsettia touch cold window panes.

Avoid drafts 

The plants are sensitive to drafts and changes in temperature. So it’s best to keep poinsettias away from drafty doors, windows, radiators, or fireplaces. 

Don’t drown the roots 

Wait until the surface of the compost dries out before watering the plant anew. Also, the decorative foil wrapper that covers pots can trap water and lead to root rot. Remove it or poke holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.

Cut back plants

Come mid-March, cut back the plant by half to encourage new shoots, suggests the University of Illinois Extension. The plants also can be placed outside in the spring after the risk of frost has passed. Bring poinsettias back in around mid-September to early October to force them to bloom again.

METRO photo

Poinsettias and their rich red, white or variegated color schemes are the ideal backdrop for Christmas celebrations. In fact, poinsettias are among the most popular decorative flowers during the holiday season. According to the 2013 USDA Floriculture Statistics report, poinsettias accounted for about one-quarter (23 percent) of all flowering potted plant sales that year. Roughly 34 million poinsettia plants are sold in a given season.

Indigenous to Central America, the plant was introduced to North America in the 1820s when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, brought the red-and-green plant back with him from a trip abroad. While millions of poinsettias will be purchased for the holiday season, many mistakenly think their utility ends once New Year’s Day has come and gone. But with proper care poinsettia plants can continue to thrive and bring warmth and beauty to a home long after the holiday decorations have been tucked away.

• Choose a hearty plant. Experts with the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science say that many people mistake the plant’s leaves for its flowers. The red, white or pink bracts are actually modified leaves. The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center called “cyathia.” Choose poinsettia plants that have buds which are, ideally, not yet open.

• Keep the temperature consistent. Poinsettias prefer a room temperature between 60 and 68 F during the day and 10 degrees cooler at night. Humidity levels between 20 and 50 percent are ideal. Group plants on water-filled trays full of pebbles to help increase humidity levels.

• Place near sunlight. The United Kingdom-based Perrywood floral company advises placing poinsettia plants near a bright windowsill but not in direct sunlight. Do not let a poinsettia touch cold window panes. • Avoid drafts. The plants are sensitive to drafts and changes in temperature. So it’s best to keep poinsettias away from drafty doors, windows, radiators, or fireplaces.

• Don’t drown the roots. Wait until the surface of the compost dries out before watering the plant anew. Also, the decorative foil wrapper that covers pots can trap water and lead to root rot. Remove it or poke holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.

• Cut back plants. Come mid-March, cut back the plant by half to encourage new shoots, suggests the University of Illinois Extension. The plants also can be placed outside in the spring after the risk of frost has passed. Bring poinsettias back in around mid-September to early October to force them to bloom again.

By Ellen Barcel

It’s getting to be that time — the time of year when the stores are filled with irresistible holiday plants. Before you make that purchase or purchases, there are some things to remember.

First, little kids and pets have a very bad habit of putting everything they see in their mouths. While some plants are safe, others are toxic. Make sure that your children and grandchildren as well as your dogs and cats can’t get at your holiday plants. A trip to the ER should not be part of your holiday experience.

Second, if you are treating that plant as you would a bouquet of flowers, that is, a decoration for a brief time, then of course put those plants where they do the best for the décor. If, on the other hand, you wish to keep your holiday plants growing year round, then you must treat them kindly. Put them where they will get enough light. Remember to water them accordingly. Don’t overwater any cactus plant, for example, but don’t let your poinsettias dry out.

Norfork Island pines decorated for Christmas. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Norfork Island pines decorated for Christmas. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Some plants need enough humidity, like the Norfolk Island pine, which is so popular this time of year. Frequently decorated with sparkles and red bows, it makes a nice alternative to a full-sized Christmas tree. I’ve seen them in the supermarket, moderately priced, for about three feet tall. Add a few of your own decorations and you have a really nice holiday tree. I kept one growing for a number of years before the dry house air in winter finally did it in.

If you are planning to have amaryllis blooming for the holidays, you need to have that bulb planted approximately four to six weeks before the desired bloom date. While most are a bright red, there are white, pink and variegated varieties. To keep them blooming for the next year, remove the spent flower but keep the green leaves growing. You need to fertilize the plant as it is growing, since this year’s bloom is based on what the grower did the year before you bought it. The bulb will then go dormant for a number of months. If you’ve treated the bulb right, it should start to grow and bloom again in November of next year.

Look for poinsettias with the yellow center flowers still closed. They will last longer. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Look for poinsettias with the yellow center flowers still closed. They will last longer. Photo by Ellen Barcel

If you choose a poinsettia, make sure that the yellow flowers (the tiny part in the center of the “bloom”) are tightly closed, with no pollen on the red petals (actually bracts, modified leaves). This means that the flower has not really bloomed yet and will last longer in your house. If you see that the yellow flowers are open and that the pollen is out, it means the plant is an older one and will not last as long in your house.

Yes, you can try to keep a poinsettia year to year, but my experiences have not been positive ones. I treat them as I would a bouquet of flowers, nice for a decoration but to be discarded when the bloom fades. If you get one of those “doctored up” varieties, sprayed a different color or sprinkled with glitter, and are able to keep it growing year after year, you will, of course, just get the plain red bracts in future years.

Christmas cactus need dark and cool night temperatures to form buds. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Christmas cactus need dark and cool night temperatures to form buds. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Christmas cacti are much easier to keep growing year after year. They don’t mind the dry air so common in most winter houses. To get the cacti to rebloom year after year, put them in a totally dark room (or closet) each night for about two months before Christmas. The dark, the experts say, will trigger the formation of flowers. It has been my experience that as long as I keep my cacti in a very cool room (for me, my dining room) during the autumn months, the buds form. Of course, my dining room tends to be a fairly dark (but not totally dark) room in the fall.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.