WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Christmas is just around the corner,
and the classic winter flower, the poinsettia, can be found at most any grocery
or floral store. Extension horticulture specialist Rosie Lerner shared her
tricks for choosing and maintaining poinsettias this season.
With more breeds of poinsettia now than ever before there
are many colors available, such as speckled pink, red and white. When browsing
plants at the store search for strong, healthy plants, Lerner said.
“Look for stocky, well-branched plants that look fresh, not
droopy, and free of discolored spots on the foliage or bracts,” she suggested.
“And be sure to protect the plant from cold temps while taking it out to the car
for transport. The plant should be sleeved, the car pre-warmed.”
Plants with healthy root systems should last quite awhile,
even in homes with less than ideal growing conditions. Another tip is to look
for plants with the least amount of pollen on the flower, which is located just
above the colorful bract that is often mistaken as the flower.
Poinsettias are priced based on the number of blooms, so
plants with more blooms cost more.
“The best way to extend their beauty is to match, as closely
as possible, the conditions in which they were produced,” Lerner said.
“Poinsettias are raised in greenhouses where cool temperatures can be maintained
between 60 and75 (degrees) with high relative humidity and high light
Unfortunately, these conditions are difficult to reproduce
in a home where the air is dry, light intensity is low and short for most of the
The best practice it to place the poinsettia near a sunny
window, close to the light, but away from frosty window glass. Those who want
their plant to last longer may choose to use artificial light and a humidifier.
“Placing plants together on a pebble tray will help raise
humidity around the plants themselves,” Lerner said. “Both hot and cold drafts
can cause leaf drop, so avoid placing plants near doors or heating
Like many plants, it is easy to over- or under-water a
poinsettia. When the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to
Poinsettias are thought to be dangerous by many people. But
in reality they aren’t proven to be deadly, Lerner said.
“I’m not a health expert but allergies are specific
reactions within individuals, not in whole populations,” she said. “It’s like
some people are allergic to penicillin but most people are not.”
Some people are sensitive to the plant’s milky sap, so it’s
best to keep plants away from children and pets as a precaution.