There are many types of plants available for purchase during the holiday season. Poinsettias are the number one potted plant sold and for good reason, they are beautiful, they come in the traditional red and a variety of other colors, and if properly cared for they last a long time. Chances are that you will either purchase a poinsettia as a gift or receive one as a gift. Following are some tips to help you choose a healthy poinsettia and keep it looking good throughout the holiday season and beyond.
When choosing a poinsettia make sure you choose a plant that has fully colored bracts (modified leaves) and tightly closed flower buds. The "true flowers" are in the center and should be tightly closed with no yellow pollen showing. The plant should have dark green foliage that goes completely down the stem of the plant. Make sure when purchasing a poinsettia that it is wrapped in a paper sleeve before taking it outside. Temperatures below 50 degrees can damage the bracts and leaves if the plant is not wrapped. Never leave a poinsettia outside in a cold car or you may risk damage to the plant.
Once you are home with your poinsettia there are a few key tips to keeping your plant healthy and happy. First, choose a bright location out of direct sunlight. Locating the plant near an east, west or south facing window will work well. Choose a location that will not have any hot or cold drafts. Avoid placing the plant near drafty windows, a heat vent, or a fireplace. Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees so avoid placing your plant in a room that tends to be substantially cooler or warmer than that. Lastly, do not overwater. Water the plant when the potting mix is dry to the touch. It may be necessary to poke holes in the decorative foil and set the plant in a saucer to allow excess water drain off. It is not necessary to fertilize the plant while it is in bloom.
With the proper care your poinsettia will look good through the holiday season and can be kept as a houseplant or planted outside during summer once the threat of frost has passed.
For more information about caring for holiday plants call the University of Illinois Extension (815) 235-4125 or visit The Poinsettia Pages at: http://extension.illinois.edu/poinsettia/