Allen D. Owings, Bogren, Richard C. | 12/9/2006 4:18:07 AM
Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants in the United States. Colored leaves called bracts are the main attraction of poinsettias, and an ever increasing range of colors are available – from the traditional red, to white, pink, peach, yellow, marbled and speckled.
“There are now poinsettias with purplish and burgundy colored foliage,” says Dr. Allen Owings, a horticulturalist with the LSU AgCenter.
“The latest trend is ‘painted’ poinsettias,” he says. “And some have been seen in Louisiana the last few years in Mardi Gras colors.”
When selecting poinsettias, look for plants with fully mature, thoroughly colored and expanded bracts, Owings says. Avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges.
“An abundance of dark, rich green foliage is a vital sign of good plant health,” Owings says. “Look for plants with dense, plentiful foliage all the way down the stem.”
The horticulturalist says 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,” Owings says. “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 F,” Owings says. “Re-inserting 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.