Seeing red through the holidays


You buy your beautiful poinsettia and you want it to look gorgeous all through the holidays and maybe for at least a few weeks afterwards. Will it happen?

Here are Evelyn Weidner’s best pointers for poinsettia success.

Buy a good poinsettia to start with. If you start out with a poinsettia that has been sitting in a shipping box for a week or two, it will look good when you buy it, but it is already on its way down, because poinsettias do not like being caged up in the dark.

Do not buy a poinsettia that has leaves already falling off, or flowers that have botrytis rotting spots on them.

Buy the right poinsettia for the right place and get the right advice.

Buy from a reputable source where you can talk to someone who knows which poinsettia is best for your spot. Example: You want to put your poinsettias outside in the open. Make sure the plants are short enough so they won’t fall over in the wind. Ask for poinsettias that take the outdoors best. Bury your pots halfway down to make them last better.

A happy poinsettia is not too wet and not too dry.

The smaller the pot size, the more often they need to be watered. Larger pots have more soil and need water less often. Your finger is the best moisture meter. Lift the pot and feel the weight. Dry pots are light and the soil is dry to the touch. Water well and then let it drain. Crushed ice works great!

Watch the leaves for that first hint of wilting — then water. If you let your plants dry to the point of leaves being really wilted and drooping, you will lose all those leaves. Trust me. They are already dying; it just takes a few more days for them to fall off.

Or you are trying to be good, so you leave your pot sitting in water. This is like drowning the roots. Roots that have drowned are like house plumbing that is all clogged up. The water cannot move through, so your plant dies a slow and painful death.

The best spots are where you get good, bright light, but not hot sun. To be honest, I have put poinsettias in dark corners and light corners, and I can’t see much difference. Just not in front of hot air vents or on top of hot TVs.

There is a natural progression in poinsettias, just like all living things. The first parts of your poinsettia to go are the little yellow true flowers. The red parts that we call the flower are really modified leaves (bracts).

The next natural step is to lose some of the bottom leaves. Not all of them, but some.

Your poinsettia bloom should last well through the holidays, and it is not at all unusual to have them still good for Valentine’s Day.

By St. Patrick’s Day, it is time to cut back the blooms. If you do not cut off the red bract blooms, your poinsettia cannot grow naturally during the summer.