As holidays approach, many people will prepare to host gatherings with family and friends. This can include decorating to make the home more festive.

People will also decorate their place of business as well as their place of worship. This is where the most popular flowering plant sold in the United States will come into play. One resource stated that most poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to Christmas and will represent approximately $60 million of sales.

Today, I will be sharing information and tips on the poinsettia by use a of a UGA publication by former UGA horticulturists Paul Thomas and Mel Garber, and also from fact sheets by Clemson and Illinois Extension.

Going back to my school days, history was my favorite class. I would like to give you some poinsettia history. Joel R. Poinsett from South Carolina was the first United States ambassador to Mexico. While in Mexico, he collected samples of a wild plant that could grow 12-15 feet in height. This plant that was developed into our current poinsettia looked a little different. The red floral bracts were narrow and droopy when compared to our modern poinsettias and had more open centers.

Poinsett had the plants taken to the Bartram Botanical Garden in Philadelphia in 1828. The red poinsettia is still the most popular poinsettia sold, but you do have many color options today. You can find poinsettias that are available with white, pink, peach, yellow, marbled and speckled bracts. This gives a person more options when trying to have decorating plans just right. My data states that California is the top United States poinsettia producing state. The Paul Ecke Ranch in California is known to sell two-thirds of the poinsettias worldwide.

I would like to switch gears to information that many of you may find more important such as poinsettia selection. The goal is to have a long-lasting poinsettia for your decorating efforts. When making a poinsettia purchase look for poinsettia plants that have fully mature, completely colored bracts. You should also select poinsettias with an abundance of dark and rich green foliage that extends down the stem. You should not see drooping leaves and bracts.

In addition, look for plants that are balanced and full plus attractive from all sides. The plants should be durable with stiff stems, good bract and leaf retention with no visual signs of wilting, breaking or drooping. You should finally select plants with yellow flowers in the center that are not quite open.

After purchase, there are measures you can take to keep the plant looking great when you get home. These tips will center on proper lighting, temperature plus watering and fertilizing. You should place the poinsettia in a spot that will give at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day. Note, if the area is in direct sunlight this can cause the bract color to fade. If limited on area, you can filter any direct sunlight with a light shade or sheer curtain.

Keep in mind that proper temperature should be an important consideration. The daytime temperature should not exceed 70 degrees F. Too much heat will cause leaf yellowing with leaves falling off plus can cause early fading of flower bracts. Keep the plants away from drafts, excess heat and even dry air that can come from appliances, fireplaces and vent ducts.

I will add that plants can have chill injury if the plant placement spot drops below 50 degrees F. A poinsettia will need moderately moist soil. You should water completely when the soil surface is dry to the touch. You should not let the potting mixture completely dry out.

On the flipside, the plant does not need to be in standing water either. Many poinsettias will come in a container that will have a decorative covering. When you do water, take the plant out of the decorative pot cover. Then water until you see water coming out of the drainage holes of the container. You should not fertilize a blooming poinsettia. With proper care, a poinsettia can stay in good shape for months.

Finally, you can keep a poinsettia after the holidays. In fact, You can re-flower a poinsettia if you can dedicate the time.

If you do keep your poinsettia, remember you will have to keep the plant indoors until the danger of spring frost has passed before moving the poinsettia outdoors. You should remove bracts as they wither and fade. Keep the plant in a morning sun/afternoon shade spot. You should water and fertilize often.

We will go over re-flowering tips at a later date

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.

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