Caring for a Christmas Poinsettia

Poinsettias add a festive flair to your home for the holidays. Now in many choices of colors and sizes, this plant will fit anyplace in the house. These colorful, live Christmas plants add a spark to your decorations. Here are a few tips on selecting and caring for your poinsettia so that it will last longer than the few weeks of holiday festivities.

How to Select a Poinsettia
The maturity of the plant can be determined by checking the flowers. Although we refer to the colorful part of the poinsettias as flowers, the colored portions are actually modified leaves or bracts. The flowers are the small, yellow beadlike structures in the center of the bracts. If they are tight buds, the flowers are fresh. If they are fuzzy with pollen or have fallen off the plant, then the plant has matured. Leave that plant on the shelf and look for one with healthy buds. Also check for dark green foliage. Fallen or yellow leaves indicate poor fertilization or a root disease problem or problems incurred while being transported to the store.

Taking the plant home
When taking your plant home, always wrap the plant if it is cold outdoors. Exposure to low temperatures and cold wind for even a short time can cause leaves to turn brown and fall. Unwrap your plant by tearing off the sleeve rather than pulling it up over the plant. This helps to eliminate the possibility of breaking the stems or stripping the leaves.

Poinsettia Care
Place the plant in as bright a light as possible. Do not allow it to touch the cold window pane. Be sure that it is not in a drafty location; avoid radiators, hot air registers, air conditioners, open windows and doors. Do not place near a wood stove. Poinsettias like to be in 55- to 72-degree temperatures.

Watering and fertilizing your Christmas Poinsettia
Check the soil every day by actually feeling the soil with your finger. This is good advice for any plant. Water the plant thoroughly whenever the soil is dry a half-inch deep. If the pot is wrapped in decorative paper, punch a hole in the bottom and set the plant in a saucer to allow the water to drain through and then discard the excess water. If the plant is in a pot cover, remove it from the cover when watering and place it in a saucer to catch the water. Do not allow the plant to sit in water. If not watered thoroughly, the lower leaves will drop and the plant will look wilted. If too much water is applied, the lower leaves will yellow and then drop. Always check the bottom of the plant for dampness before placing it on your furniture.

Use a houseplant fertilizer every two to four weeks or as often as the fertilizer manufacturer suggests.

Bright light, close attention to watering and feeding and the temperature in your home will allow you to enjoy your Christmas plant for a long time.

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