Fall Leaf Color Changes & Choosing the Perfect Poinsettia

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  5/9/2018 4:18:42 PM

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News article for December 4, 2017

Have you noticed the leaves changing colors over the last week or so? We are not going to become a destination for fall foliage viewing, but the change is significant for us.

We read all the articles about fall color change and see all the pictures and think that this occurs in October, but it does not happen that way in south Louisiana. If we are going to get any color change here it is going to be in early December.

Leaf color changes require several weeks of moderate temperatures in the 60-70 degree range with lots of bright sunshine. You also need a few weeks with cool night temperatures below about 45 degrees. These conditions will allow the green chlorophyll to be used up faster than it is replaced and the true color of the leaf will show. That is when you see red, purple, orange, yellow and brown leaves. Unfortunately, rain can easily knock those leaves off the trees.

Hardwood trees give you the best color change. Chinese tallow is a very invasive tree, but it does give you good color with lots of red and purple. Sweet gum and maples usually produce good color most years. Other trees that have good color are elms, hickory, crape myrtles and ornamental flowering pears. I have also noticed muscadine leaves turning orange up in the trees.

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A lot of locals were not able to decorate for Christmas last year after the flood. They were out of their homes and some still are. For those fortunate enough to be back in their homes, replacing Christmas decorations is becoming a reality. The season is in full swing.

I have had several people tell me that they put their poinsettias through the darkness period that I wrote about in October and that they now have color on the bracts. I also heard one story of a graduate student turning on the lights at night in a greenhouse and none of those poinsettias are showing color yet.

It may be just easier to purchase a poinsettia. Poinsettias are the second most popular Christmas plant purchased, only surpassed by the Christmas tree.

It is amazing how many different poinsettia sizes and colors are available today. There should be a color to go with just about any decorating scheme. Of course the most popular color is red, accounting for more than 75% of sales, but there are lots of shades of red, heights of plant and even leaf shapes. Also popular are pink and white. Additionally, you can find yellow, apricot, cream, salmon, maroon and purple. Most colors except blue. They also come in speckled and marbled varieties with several colors blended uniquely on one plant.

Just like selecting the perfect Christmas tree, you need to select a fresh poinsettia to last all the season long. With Christmas trees you are checking the needles, but with poinsettias you are actually looking at the blooms. The red or colored portion of the plant is not the bloom, but modified leaves call bracts. Poinsettias have an obscure flower in the center of the plant. You will see green button-like true flowers. These should be tight and small. As the flowers mature the buttons will increase in size and open and have the presence of a syrup-like sap. The younger plants will have smaller and tighter buttons, no sap, will be fresher and last longer.

Make sure your poinsettias get some sunlight. Avoid drafts and water when dry, but do not overwater. Placing a few ice cubes in each pot when dry is a good way to water. You do not want to mist plants or get water on bracts or leaves.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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