Pointers Offered For Poinsettia Shopping

Allen D. Owings  |  12/4/2007 2:04:45 AM

Poinsettias come in many colors besides red and in different styles, too, such as this “holly” shape. (photo by Mark Claesgens)

Holiday News You Can Use Distributed 12/04/07

Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants in the United States. Louisiana has a number of poinsettia growers with an abundance of good, locally grown plants, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.

Colored leaves (called bracts) are the main attraction of poinsettias, and an ever-increasing range of colors is available – from the traditional red, to white, pink, peach, yellow, marbled and speckled.

Some poinsettias have purplish and burgundy-colored foliage. These top leaves start changing from green to other colors in late October to early November as the length of daytime hours shortens in the fall.

Owing says one of the newer trends that started three or four years ago was “painted” poinsettias. But in Louisiana, he says, consumers never caught on to the fad, so that style may not be readily available. Nevertheless, you can occasionally find poinsettias decorated with paint, beads and glitter in Mardi Gras-colored themes.

When selecting poinsettias, the horticulturist says to look for plants with fully mature, thoroughly colored and expanded bracts. Avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges. An abundance of dark, rich, green foliage toward the lower part of the plant canopy is a sign of good plant health. Look for plants with dense, plentiful foliage all the way down the stem. Leaves should reach to the edge of the container and hopefully cover it.

Proper proportion of plant height and shape relative to container size is also an important key to an aesthetically pleasing poinsettia. Plants should appear balanced, full and attractive from all angles. A generally accepted standard is that the plant should be approximately 2½ times taller than the diameter of the container.

Select plants with stiff stems, good bract and leaf retention, and no signs of wilting, breaking or drooping. Be wary of plants displayed in paper, plastic or mesh sleeves. A poinsettia needs its space; the longer a plant remains sleeved, the more the plant quality will deteriorate.

Examine the soil of the plant. It is best to avoid waterlogged soil, particularly if the plant appears wilted. This could be a sign of irreversible root rot. When transporting the plant, protect it from chilling winds and temperatures below 50 degrees. Reinserting the poinsettia into a sleeve or a large, roomy shopping bag will usually provide adequate protection for transporting the plant home when it is cold and windy.

“These guidelines will help you enjoy your poinsettias through the Christmas and New Year’s seasons,” Owings says.

For related gardening and landscape information, click on the Lawn and Garden link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. Also, contact the county agent in your local parish LSU AgCenter office.
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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Contact: Allen D. Owings (985) 543-4125 or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu.
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