Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on November 2, 1998. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Poinsettias' Splendor Last Beyond Holidays
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With proper selection and care, a beautiful, traditional holiday plant may last long past the holidays.
"Poinsettias have become a tradition, and some new gorgeous varieties will be showing up this year," said Norman Winter, horticulturist at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center.
"The colorful parts of the poinsettia are actually modified leaves known as bracts. The true flowers are the small yellow buttons in the center of the bracts," Winter said. "Look for plants with fully mature, thoroughly colored and expanded bracts with small green flower buds."
Some of the new variety of poinsettias include Pepride and Freedom. With dark green leaves and deep red bracts, Pepride is eye-catching. Freedom is also dark red with dark green leaves.
One variety has variegated, silver and green foliage and dark red bracts. This type is called Silver Star. Sonora Jingle Bells has a peppermint look because of its dark red bracts with white flecks.
"Unless you prefer red, there are several pink varieties that may be the most beautiful poinsettias ever developed," Winter said.
Monet has bracts that are pink with drifts of darker pink or burgundy. One of the pink variety has a creamy white variegation that is the reason it is named Marble Star.
If properly cared for, poinsettias will last many weeks or months depending on the maturity of the plant when purchased, the type of poinsettia and how the plant is treated.
"Select plants with dark green foliage down to the soil line," Winter said. "As a rule of thumb, poinsettias should be 2 1/2 times larger than their pots."
Avoid purchasing plants after the yellow beads in the center of the bracts have dropped from the plant.
Place poinsettias in the sunniest place possible. Do not allow the bracts to touch the cold windowpanes. Freezing outdoor temperatures may cause damage, since the plant was grown at day temperatures of 70 degrees and night temperatures of 60 degrees.
Humidity is relatively high in the greenhouse, and to increase the humidity around the poinsettia at home, place the plant in a saucer filled with gravel. Add water so evaporation from the gravel provides the additional humidity. The water level should remain just below the bottom of the pot to avoid soggy soil.
"Poinsettias do not like drastic temperature changes or drafty locations, so keep them away from radiators, air vents and space heaters," Winter said.
To grow poinsettias through the year to flower the following Christmas, critical conditions are necessary.
After several weeks, poinsettias will begin to wither despite proper care. At this time, allow the soil to dry, but not enough to shrivel the entire stem.
The plant should remain in a warm area as it becomes semi-dormant, and move it outside as soon as the danger of frost passes. Place poinsettias in a flower bed where they can receive full sun, and cut the stem back three to five inches above the soil line.
Fertilize poinsettias every 14 days, and keep the plants moist during hot, dry months.
"New growth should appear within two weeks after planting," Winter said.
Tip pinch the new growth to encourage multiple branching, but do not pinch after Sept. 1.
"Move poinsettias indoors as the danger of frost approaches," Winter said.
From Sept. 15 until blooming, protect the plant from stray light after sundown. Even light from an overhead light or a bright flashlight causes the plant not to flower by Christmas.
By late November, the bracts should begin to color and the poinsettia should be in full flower by Christmas.