Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for December 3, 2018
While the Christmas tree is the focal point of all Christmas decorating, the poinsettia is the most popular flowering plant for Christmas.
If you saved your poinsettias from last year, you should be seeing color by now, if you fulfilled its photo dormancy period. It is a process that occurs naturally in nature, but all of our artificial lights interfere with nature. So we have to artificially restrict the plants light period to 14 hours per day for 4-5 weeks to initiate color for Christmas. Growers typically start the photo dormancy period in early to mid-October..
If you did not do that then you might want to consider purchasing a new plant or two. Poinsettias come in a variety of colors. Each year there are new varieties that come onto the scene that add to the color options. While 90% of the poinsettias that are sold are red there are also pink, white, marble, burgundy, maroon, yellow and combinations of these plus many shades of red.
Just like selecting a Christmas tree, freshness is the key to picking a poinsettia that will last the entire holiday season and beyond.
As the poinsettia plant matures you will see a syrup-like sap coming from the green, button-like open flower parts in the center of the bract. You want to select less mature plants that have a tight, flower part without sap present.
The colorful part of the plant is the bracts, which are modified leaves. Make sure that the bracts are large and extend down over the green leaves to give you maximum color and cover the rim of the pot. There are also some interesting leaf shapes that can be ruffled, fluted, curled or traditional. You do not want a poinsettia that has drooping leaves.
Also select a plant that is proportional in size. Look for one that is approximately 2½ times taller than the diameter of the pot.
Care of poinsettias once you get them home is crucial for their longevity. Location is very important. You would like to locate the plant where it can get some sunlight. Avoid places that will allow for sudden temperature changes or drafts. Make sure a vent is not blowing directly on the plants.
Water is also critical. Only water when the soil is dry to the touch. Do not mist the foliage of the plant with water or pour water over the plant. Use your finger to feel the soil for moisture. When watering, you can use a saucer under the pot to catch excess water, but do not allow excess water to stand for more than 30 minutes. Poinsettias will do better drier than wetter, so do not over water.
You can usually get 4 to 6 weeks out of the poinsettias and I have had them to last, with color, into February with good care.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture