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Select a Healthy Poinsettia

By Dan Jewett, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Denver County

Poinsettias have trekked through history from the mountains of Mexico to America's living rooms.

And, now it's the time of year to select the best plant for your holiday season.

Chances are the poinsettia will extend your holiday season into spring. Plant scientists have improved upon the wild varieties to the point where poinsettias often hold their bracts, the colored portion of the flowers, through April, or even May and June.

Here are some tips to help you choose a poinsettia that will add color to your home long after the holidays are past.

  • Look for plants with few flowers open. Poinsettia flowers are not the colorful portion of the plant; instead they come out of the berries in the center. The plant has been around awhile if the berries are open, are yellow at the top and contain lots of little "hairs" with tufts on the end. At this stage, the poinsettia is nearing the end of its peak. The best value are plants that show few if any flowers (berries). They will give you color for the longest period possible.

  • Consider shape. A well-rounded plant with leaves that go down to hide the top of the pot are signs of a well-grown and well-treated plant.

Here are some tips to keep your plant healthy and beautiful:

  • Keep it in a sunny window or other bright area.

  • Avoid sudden temperature changes.

  • Keep the soil moist, but not wet.

  • Do not let the plant sit in standing water.

When leaves fall -- a natural occurrence -- cut the stems back to two or three buds and reduce watering to a minimum until new growth appears. Poinsettias will grow well outdoors over the summer or in a sunny window and will bloom again with a little help.

To bloom, they need 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness. If you start this in October, the poinsettia will be ready for the next holiday season.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

More helpful information on Poinsettias

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010