Selection and Care of the Poinsettia

The poinsettia is one of the most beautiful symbols of the holiday season.  The bright, colorful poinsettia has become an integral part of holiday decorations in both the home and office. 


Poinsettias are available in red, pink, white, and gold.  Marbled and bicolored poinsettias are also available.  The colorful part of the poinsettia, commonly referred to as the plant’s flowers, are actually modified leaves or bracts.  The true flowers are yellow to green, button-like objects located in the center of the bracts. 

When selecting a poinsettia, choose a plant with dark green foliage and brightly colored bracts.  The true flowers should be shedding little or no pollen.  Avoid poinsettias with wilted foliage, broken stems, or few leaves.  Also, check the plant for insects.  No one wants to bring an insect-infested poinsettia into the home. 

Pionsettia with pinkish-yellow bracts
This is one type of poinsettia whose bract is a pinkish-yellow hue.

Pionsettia with red and white bracts
This poinsettia has more of the classic looking bracts with streaks of white running through them. 



To prevent damage from cold temperatures, purchase the poinsettia at the end of the shopping trip, place the poinsettia in a plant sleeve or carefully wrap it before going outdoors, and set the plant in a heated vehicle.  Exposure to freezing temperatures, even for a brief moment, may cause the leaves to blacken and drop. 

As soon as you get home, unwrap the poinsettia and place it near a sunny window or other well-lighted area.  However, don’t let the plant touch the cold window pane.  Also, keep the poinsettia away from cold drafts or heat sources.  Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Water needs can be determined with your finger.  Check the potting soil daily.  When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water the plant until water begins to flow out the bottom of the pot.  The pots of most poinsettias are placed inside decorative pot covers.  When watering a poinsettia, carefully remove the pot cover, water the plant in the sink, then set the poinsettia back into the pot cover.  Improper watering is responsible for most poinsettia problems in the home.  Keeping plants too wet (watering too frequently) often results in the yellowing and loss of the poinsettia’s lower leaves.  Leaves will curl and drop when plants are allowed to get too dry. 

When given good care, poinsettias should remain attractive for several weeks, well after the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays. 

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