LSU AgCenter offers poinsettia tips
Thanksgiving week was the time when many people began purchasing plants for the holiday season, and many poinsettias are available in stores and garden centers now, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.
“You can expect poinsettias to last until the New Year if you give proper consideration to selecting and caring for your plants,” Owings said.
Consumers still favor red poinsettias but additional colors are available and always attract attention. White, peach, marble and bicolors are in the marketplace along with new colors with names like Ice Punch, Cortez Burgundy and Monet.
Owings said, “There is even an orange-foliage poinsettia now called Orange Spice.”
“We have lost some of the poinsettia growers in Louisiana as well as across the nation,” said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Jeff Kuehny. “The poinsettia continues to be a tough market for many growers because of the cost of production and the market price. However, there are still many growers that grow on a smaller scale, producing high-quality plant material that will bring them top dollar.”
Louisiana has a very large producer of poinsettia starter plants, and many growers in the state produce poinsettias for the holiday season. Kuehny said. “So you can be pleased to know that many Louisiana-sold poinsettias are Louisiana-grown poinsettias. You can buy fresh and buy local poinsettias at many locations around the state.”
Points to consider when purchasing poinsettias for the holidays include the size and number of the colored leaves — which are referred to as bracts. Bracts should be large and extend over the lower green leaves.
The number and size of bracts usually dictate plant price, Owings said. “A premium-quality poinsettia usually has at least six bracts and should have more.”
Another thing to do is inspect the lower green leaves on poinsettias. Leaves should have good appearance and extend over the rim of the pot. Drooping leaves may indicate problems. Also check for insects, primarily white flies, underneath the lower leaves.
“The most important observation you should make before purchasing a poinsettia is inspecting the green flower parts — called cyathia — in the center of the bracts,” Owings said. “These flower parts indicate display life.”
Plants with cyathia that are showing yellow pollen and sap will have the least amount of display life left. Plants with smaller cyathia, little to no pollen and no sap will have the longest display life, he said. “A poinsettia should last for four to six weeks in the home with proper care.”
To prolong the beauty and health of poinsettias once they are in the home, proper care is essential, according to Owings. Although poinsettias do not become acclimated to interior settings as well as most foliage plants, it is easy to be successful.
Select a location that receives some sunlight. Interior hallways are a poor location. It also is very important to avoid exposing the plant to sudden temperature changes, so don’t place the poinsettia near a ventilation system or in a drafty spot near a doorway.
“Temperatures found in most homes are acceptable, and the ideal is to provide 70- to 75-degree daytime temperatures and 62- to 65-degree nights,” he said.
As for watering, allow the soil surface to dry out thoroughly before watering with warm water. The soil surface should be dry to the touch before watering again.
“Avoid water or mist on the colored bracts, and do not let the poinsettia stand in water for more than 30 minutes to an hour,” Owings said.
Poinsettias, amaryllis, Christmas cactus, rosemary, Norfolk Island pines and several other plants can be used to brighten the home during the holiday season, Owings said.