How to Care for Poinsettias
Poinsettias are fairly easy to care for. Just be aware that they are especially sensitive to cold. Make sure they're well-protected if you're transporting them on a cold day. Cover them completely with a loose-fitting bag (taking care not to break any stems when covering), hurry them out to a warmed-up car, and head right home to get them inside.
Once in your house, they do best with about six hours of sunlight a day. Ideal daytime temperatures are 60-70 degrees F. At night drop them down to 55-65 degrees F. No drafts, no blasting heat ducts.
Water your pointsettia regularly so the soil stays slightly moist, but do not let the plant sit in a dish of water; this will lead to rot. You do not need to fertilize your pointsettia during the holidays.
Tips for Choosing a Poinsettia
Plant breeders have given us poinsettias in an astonishing array of colors, patterns, and sizes — even ones dusted with glitter! However, these aren't the only considerations when choosing a poinsettia. Look for a plant with sturdy stems and leaves that aren't yellowing or droopy. Soil should be moist, indicating the plant has been well cared for. Finally, look for plants with buds that are closed (as in the image at left) or just starting to open. This will ensure you have fresh, new flowers opening and extend your bloom time.
Getting Poinsettias to Rebloom
Most folks treat poinsettias as a holiday annual and toss the plants when they start to deteriorate. But that doesn't sit well with many avid gardeners. You can try to keep a plant and bring it into bloom again.
Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont Extension says: "If you do decide to hold your poinsettias until next fall, remember that they need darkness (13 hours, uninterrupted, as in a dark closet) every night from the end of September to Thanksgiving. Just remember to take plants out of the dark during the day and to give them bright light. Still, most people find it easier to buy a new plant each year, given the plethora of quality plants grown under ideal greenhouse conditions. An early December visit to a local greenhouse, full of thousands of plants all in bloom, makes a memorable outing."
Are Poinsettias Toxic?
The other thing to know about poinsettias: They are not poisonous. This rumor has persisted for decades, possibly starting with a report from Hawaii about a fatality that happened over 75 years ago. The myth was busted after research conducted in the 1970s at Ohio State University. However, there are a few holiday favorites — such as mistletoe and holly — that are indeed poisonous. Learn more in Leonard Perry's article, Holiday Plant Toxicity. In general, let the facts and common sense be your guide: Keep poinsettias out of reach of small children and pets.
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