May 12, 2021
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first_imgBy Bodie V. PennisiUniversity of GeorgiaPoinsettias embody the holiday spirit and help create the mostfestive displays. The challenge is deciding how many poinsettiasto buy — what color, leaf shape, plant size and form. There areso many.These holiday classics offer traditional red, strong white,creamy white, light pink, solid pink, bright orange-red, deeppurple-red and various marbled or speckled flowers.They come in sizes from 4-inch pots for table displays to18-inch hanging baskets, living wreaths, topiaries and 3-gallonfloor planters.Poinsettias are versatile. Besides using them simply as pottedplants, you can use stems as cut flowers in arrangements. Just besure to keep cut stems in water. Some cultivars can last up totwo weeks as cut flowers.Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, poinsettias arenonpoisonous and safe around children and pets.Buying the best plants is easy if you follow these tips:Think Georgia-grown. This year’sGeorgia crop promises to be phenomenal. Locally grown plants maycost more, but they keep better. They’re usually sold to floristshops and garden centers.Look for fully colored andexpanded bracts (the colored portions of the plant — the actualflowers are the yellow centers). Avoid plants with too much greenaround the bract edges. This is a sign that the plant was shippedbefore it was mature enough.Choose plants with dense, richgreen leaves all along the stem. Poinsettias should bewell-branched and proportioned with the container, about two anda half times the height of the pot.Check the leaves for possible”hitchhikers.” One common pest on poinsettias is the silverleafwhitefly. These tiny flies live on the underside of the leaves,sucking the juices. This is the giveaway: when the insectsexcrete the plant’s juices, they drop a “honeydew” on the leavesbelow. Don’t buy plants with sticky leaves with dots on theundersides.Examine the roots. White and lighttan roots that have grown to the sides of the pot are signs of ahealthy plant. Brown roots, or few roots, may be a sign ofdisease.Don’t buy plants with weak stems,few bracts or any signs of wilting, breaking or drooping.Poinsettias are often crowded in stores, sometimes in paper,plastic or mesh sleeves. But they need their space. The longerthey remain sleeved, the faster their quality deteriorates.When you buy your poinsettias andtake them home, protect them from chilling winds and temperaturesbelow 50 degrees. You may need to place it into a sleeve or alarge shopping bag.Once they’re home, placepoinsettias wherever your decoration plan calls for them. They’lllast about three weeks in fairly dark places. Don’t put them nearcold drafts or excessive heat or near appliances, fireplaces orventilating ducts.Water poinsettias only when thesoil feels dry to the touch. Don’t let them wilt, though, or theleaves could drop. Overwatering is a common cause for poinsettiasdying. Always remove a plant from any decorative container beforewatering, and let the water drain completely.Don’t fertilize them during theblooming season. This will cause them to lose some of theirquality.After the holidays are over, movepoinsettias to a bright spot in either south, east or westwindows. Eventually, the bracts will start to fall off. By earlyApril, cut the plant back, leaving four to six nodes or segmentsin the stem. At this point, you can grow poinsettias outdoors infull sun. Fertilize them weekly with a balanced, all-purposefertilizer at the same rate you give to houseplants.Trim poinsettias in June, andplant them in 1-gallon pots or large, indoor planters. Trim backnew growth again around July 1 and again by mid-August. Continueto fertilize them throughout spring and summer, applyingnutrition once every two to three weeks as fall nears. Grown withadequate water and nutrition, poinsettias can grow as high as 4feet.(Bodie Pennisi is a horticulturist specializing in greenhouseflowers with the University of Georgia College of Agriculturaland Environmental Sciences.)last_img

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