image by Photo by C Novello
The poinsettia is the most popular plant purchased during the Christmas season. Native to Mexico, there are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias. The "flowers" or the colored parts of the plant are actually modified leaves called bracts. The actual poinsettia flower is the cyathia, the yellow structure surrounded by the bracts. During the holidays, poinsettias are commonly sold in foil-covered pots. When purchasing a poinsettia, look for a plant that is at least 2 1/2 inches taller than the container and has dark green foliage. Stay away from wilted plants and those with droopy yellow leaves.
Ensure that the poinsettia is wrapped properly at point of purchase to protect it from the elements during transportation. Bracts and leaves can be damaged if exposed to temperatures less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unwrap the plant and place it in indirect light once it arrives at its final destination. Keep the plant away from both warm and cold drafts.
Check the soil daily and make sure that it remains moist. Water the poinsettia when the soil begins to feel dry. Do not let the soil dry out completely as the plant will lose leaves and the color will fade.
Drain excess water by making holes in the bottom of the foil with a scissors or a knife. Over watering will wilt plants, shortening the lifespan of the bract.
Rid poinsettias of pests such as mealy bugs, whiteflies and spider mites if necessary. Gently wash the plant with a mild kitchen soap and water solution or apply a mild insecticide.