Byline: By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension
Adding holiday accent to the home can turn everyday people into divas as demanding for cutting edge as a haute couture designer. To keep your crown as the number one seller, you have to have the looks of a starlet, please contemporary or traditional tastes, and be low maintenance, all while performing like a champ.
Not an easy feat if you’re a houseplant. But for the poinsettia, varieties have taken a turn towards colors and styles that wow the savvy plant person who know where to look. Yet the stamina to make it through the holidays rests in the hands of the growers and the shoppers.
“You can find a poinsettia at every retail outlet you can think of, but if you want novel, you have to go to the independent garden centers,” Says Dr. Steven Newman, Greenhouse Crops Extension Specialist and Professor of Floriculture at Colorado State University. “There is some diversity offered at the box stores, but the independents get more designer types.”
Sure, red is still king, but salmons, pinks, purples and whites sit along side flecked and variegated varieties, perfect as an unusual spark to set off the home. Sizes vary from minis and pixies – ideal for small tables – to standards and larges for floor displays.
Development of new poinsettias has taken off due to its popularity as a year round houseplant in many other nations, Newman said. Only in the United States is it just a Christmas plant.
Colorado has excellent poinsettia growers that supply high quality plants to retailers small and large. But once the plants leave the shelter of the greenhouse, their health can get risky.
“If you want quality, you get what you pay for,” Newman says, “and smaller retailers have staff on hand that’s trained to care for the plants so they’re healthy when they go home with a shopper. Plus, they don’t park them near the door where chill wind blasts this tropical plant.”
Get the most from your poinsettia with these tips from Steve Newman:
- Start by choosing plants with plump, full anthers in the yellow center of the colorful bracts. If the anthers are dried up and the pollen is shed, move on – the plant is spent.
- Look for deep green leaves on sturdy branches that are held slightly upwards, at 60-degree angles, instead of straight out from the stem. They won’t break as easily.
- Pick plants that are kept in an area well away from the door.
- Have the checkout clerk wrap your poinsettia before you take it from the store and drive it immediately home. Temperatures less than 45 are chill enough to kill the plant.
- Place in bright, indirect light away from drafts.
- Water regularly so they won’t lose their leaves from stress, but there’s no need to fertilize.
Check out the Colorado State University Horticulture Center’s poinsettia sale, where poinsettias grown by students are available for $10 per 6-inch pot. Many new and interesting cultivars are available at this fundraiser, which supports the horticulture program.
If you go: the poinsettia sale runs December 9 through 13, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the CSU Horticulture Center, 1707 Centre Ave., Ft. Collins (facebook.com/csuhortctr/). Shop early for best selection.