Poinsettias are one of the most popular plants during the Holiday Season. Poinsettias grow as shrubs in their native southern Mexico but have been bred to become compact, bushy plants perfect as container ornamentals. The showy “flowers” of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called bracts. Usually red in color, modern poinsettia breeding created showy bracts ranging in color from red to pink to white to orange, with lots of variegations and different leaf coloration patterns and sizes. The true flowers on poinsettias are the small green and yellow parts located in the center of each group of bracts.

Photo credit: Tyler Jones UF/IFAS.

Photo credit: Tyler Jones UF/IFAS.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to ensure that your poinsettias stay beautiful through the holidays and beyond:

  • Do choose plants with true flowers that are greenish. Plants with unopened or newly opened flowers will last longer than those already sporting true flowers dusted with yellow pollen.
  • Do choose plants that are bushy and leafy. Plants that have lost their lower leaves usually indicate the plant was mishandled and may decline quickly.
  • Do place poinsettias in an area with bright light but not direct sunlight.
  • Do keep poinsettias away from children and pets. Poinsettias are not poisonous but still might cause skin irritation and upset stomachs. People allergic to latex should be aware poinsettia sap contains latex-like materials.
  • Don’t overwater poinsettias. Only water poinsettias when the top of the soil is dry, and let excess water drain away. Remove the poinsettia from the decorative foil wrapping to allow water to drain out.
  • Don’t expose poinsettias to temperature extremes or drafty areas. Poinsettias like the same temperatures as people, so keep them away from cold (temperatures below 50) or heat (temperatures above 80).

After the holidays are over, you can plant poinsettias outdoors. For more information see:

Enjoy Your Poinsettias After the Holidays

In the meantime, enjoy your beautiful poinsettias and Happy Holidays!


Gary Knox
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