Selecting and Caring for Poinsettias in California

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What's new this year in the world of Poinsettias? That's the question everyone who loves these plants eagerly seek out answers to. The reason they are so enamored with poinsettia news is that each one or several new varieties are released for the season, providing "must have" plants for those seeking "Wow" in their decorating.

If someone mentions Advent Red, Early Joy, Jester, Ice Punch, Eggnog, Shimmer, Peppermint Twist or Strawberries & Cream, you probably think they're talk about some new, sensational ice cream shake. But in the world of flowers, these names are varieties of poinsettias you'll see gracing tables, surrounding trees and planted in yards or sitting in a pot on someone's front porch. At Knott's Berry Farm there's often an entire Christmas tree standing over 20 feet made entirely of bright red poinsettias.

California offers fantastic climate for growing these plants that at one time could be seen off the 1-5 Freeway in North San Diego County. The Ecke family is synonymous with poinsettias and in 2010 the company showcased Jubilee Red, Red Glitter (the plant literally looks like glitter with its sparkled pattern of red and cream colors) and White Star - Polar Bear.

With poinsettias abounding at Costco, and sold at nearly every grocery store and hardware or home decor shop, they make a great gift--you never have to worry about the recipient already having a poinsettia...they look best displayed in groups. Poinsettias are easy to care. When you purchase a poinsettia for yourself or as a gift, don't place the plant near cold drafts or excessive heat, expose to temperatures below 50 degrees F. or sit in standing water. Also don't expose a poinsettia plant to chilling winds when transporting and don't fertilize it when in bloom. Don't let it touch a cold window pane, either.

Finally, don't let the plant sit in a saucer of water or planter with floating water. When watering, only supply enough to moisten the plant, but not soak it. Finally, if you are worried about giving a poinsettia plant as a gift because you fear it could make the recipients or their children & pets sick, poinsettias are not poisonous. While not intended for human consumption, the Poisendex Information Service states that over 500 leaves ingested by a 50 pound child would demonstrate no toxicity.

Selecting a healthy poinsettia:

Choose plants with thoroughly colored and expanded bracts. The bracts are the colorful part of the poinsettia, while the true flowers are the small yellow centers. Look for plants with dense, plentiful foliage all the way to the soil line. The plant should be about 2 times large than its pot size. Select plants with strong, stiff stems ad no signs of wilting. Be wary of plants displayed in paper, plastic or mesh sleeves, for these can reduce air flow.

Poinsettia care-- with proper care, your poinsettia can last long past the holiday season.

Place poinsettia plants in indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day. Provide room temperatures between 68-70 degrees F. Water them thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch. Use a large roomy shopping bag to protect your plants when transporting them.

Fertilize your plants after the blooming season with a balanced, all purpose fertilizer.

By early April, when the colored bracts begin to turn or fall, cut the plant back leaving four to six buds.

Keep the plant near a sunny window, water and fertilize regularly, and by the end of May, you should see vigorous new growth.

Cut your plant back again around July 4th and again by September 1st to promote compact, full growth.

Continue to nurture your plants as Autumn nears. The poinsettia begins to set buds and produce flowers as the nights become longer.

Beginning October 1st, keep the plant in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. till around early to mid-December, just before Christmas.


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