University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
[Polish translation of this article]
Poinsettias have become synonymous
with the holiday season. In fact, December 12 has been proclaimed by an
Congress as National Poinsettia Day to commemorate the death of Joel
who introduced this Mexican native plant to the U.S. Many
have been developed over the
last few decades, with currently well over 100 different varieties in a
of flower colors and styles. To get the
longest life and enjoyment from the ones you purchase or receive as
follow a few simple tips.
Start with proper selection. This
means choosing plants with healthy, dark green foliage and brightly
"bracts". Bracts are actually
colored leaves that look like flower petals, but aren't.
are available with red, white,
pink, peach, yellow, marbled (pink and white patterns), or bi-colored
bracts. Still most poinsettias grown and
sold are red, but if you want to be different, or "design" with them,
look for one of these other colors.
Some of the newer selections include
red with white spots as in the cultivars (cultivated variety) with the
'Jingle Bells'. There are variations in
pink from bright to a soft peppermint to rose to salmon. One of
favorites has cream, rose and pink,
and goes by the name 'Monet Twilight'.
Reds range from bright to dark maroon, almost purple. Some
"marbles" can be white and pink in roughly equal amounts, or more of
one color. There are even double flowers with more
bracts, such as the red 'Valentine' and the Winter Rose series
several colors. There is even a red
poinsettia with green and white variegated leaves.
Green leaves should be just that,
not yellowing or falling off, signs of poor culture and
Don't buy drooping plants, a sign they've
been stressed from lack of water. If a
plant is wilted, but the soil is wet, the plant may have a root rot
disease. Plants crowded together for
more than a few days may lose bracts prematurely.
The "true" flowers are
found in clusters in the center of the colored bracts, and are called
"cyathia". Poinsettias are technically in flower when these
pollen-bearing clusters are open.
Longest life comes from choosing plants with these cyathia not yet
or just opening.
You should consider the shape and
proportion of the plant. While plant height and pot size aren't
individually, the relationship between them is important for the
plant. The ratio of plant-to-pot size should be about two to one (a
in a six-inch pot, for example.)
Poinsettias are extremely sensitive
to cold and freezing temperatures, so make sure your plant is wrapped
carrying it between the store and your car when outdoor temperatures
50 degrees (F). Never transport it in the trunk where it is apt to
in protective wrapping. Buy on warmer
days if possible.
If you are concerned that
poinsettias are poisonous, don't be.
This myth was based on a false report many decades ago.
have been shown by scientific
studies at Ohio State University to not be poisonous, and poisonous
only list occasional cases of vomiting if enough leaves are
To avoid even this, keep plants away from
children and pets as you would harmful household products.
To enjoy your poinsettia for as long
as possible, place it in an area with sufficient natural
light to read fine
print, and away from heat outlets and drafts from open doors and
least 6 hours of direct light daily is ideal. Ideal day temperatures
between 60 and 70 degrees, nights between 55 and 65 degrees.
Provide uniformly moist soil with
good drainage. It's better to let plants
get a bit dry than to keep too wet, causing roots to rot. If pots are
don't let water remain in saucers. If
pots are in
decorative foil, punch a few holes in the bottom to allow excess water
Poinsettias benefit from regular fertilization
after bloom. Use a complete, water-soluble fertilizer at the rate and
recommended on the label. With good care in the home, poinsettias often
their colored bracts for four to six months, or even longer. Most
to tire of seeing these long before
their bracts have faded.
If you do decide to hold your
poinsettias until next fall, remember that they need darkness (13
uninterrupted, as in a dark closet) every night from the end of
Thanksgiving. Just remember to take
plants out of the dark during the day and to give bright light.
find it easier to buy new ones each
year, with plants of better quality having been grown under ideal
conditions. An early December visit to a local greenhouse, full of
plants all in bloom, makes a memorable outing all should experience if