Tropical plant favors bright light and humid conditions.
PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
Updated Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:39 pm
Updated Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:39 pm
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The holidays wouldn't be the holidays without poinsettias dotting home interiors with bold colors. Sadly, poinsettias don't stimulate the nose. However, the surface beauty is nothing to thumb your nose at.
Poinsettias account for more than 95 percent of holiday plant sales if you eliminate evergreens. And like home computers in the last 30 years, poinsettias are more affordable. Thirty years ago, you'd expect to pay between $40-50 for a plant you can find for $15-20 these days. Research, plant breeding and better growing conditions have improved stem strength so they aren't as likely to snap off.
Plants are also shorter, partially due to genetics and partially due to chemicals. In the olden days, plants would be quite leggy and folded over on themselves.
And of course, there is the color range that started out as red, and then went to white and finally pink. It wasn't long before splotches, speckles and streaks of red, white and pink found their way on some solid colored plants.
There are some orange-red cultivars. Some florists will spray flowers purple, blue, gold and any other unnatural color, even adding glitter and sparkles.
Bet you didn't know this
The colored leaves are technically bracts. They look like petals, but the flower is really the tiny yellow thing that might be tinged with red in the center of all the colored bracts. If the flower is mature, you may find a small droplet of sticky sap or nectar on top.
As the plant ages, these yellow flowers will fall off, even though the bracts remain colorful.
The bracts are vivid this year because of a bright and sunny fall. When October and November are gray and overcast, plants tend to be smaller and the final color is muted or dull. Bright days bring taller plants with colors that seem to shoot.
Some like it humid
Poinsettias are tropical in nature, and therein lies the biggest problem we have - they don't like most of our indoor environments.
Poinsettias prefer bright light. Even in a south window with nothing blocking the sun, the light intensity is reduced by at least two-thirds from what the plant was receiving in a greenhouse. Even though the plants grow in partial shade in nature, in greenhouses and homes they need lots of light.
The plants will tolerate our winter temperatures indoors, which are somewhat similar to Central America, but they hate the lower humidity levels. They prefer our summer humidity levels of 75 percent or more. But furnaces dry out indoor air.
Plants respond to the poor conditions in a matter of weeks. Dark green lower leaves will turn yellow and drop. Plants will appear droopy, which they also can do if you water them too much. The colorful bracts will start losing their brightness.
What you can do:
Give the plants as much bright light as possible. A south window is the best. Otherwise give the plants at least 14 hours of artificial light.
Remove any foil covering the pot. The foil looks festive, but can hold excess water so the plant starts rotting. If you want something attractive, set the plants in a larger cache pot, but check 30 minutes after watering that plants aren't sitting in water.
Because most plants are grown in a soilless mix, you'll probably have to water plants more often. The soil will dry out quickly. If plants are near some heat source, expect to water twice a week, though once a week may be enough.
Water so the soil drains within a half hour. If the plants are wilted, take them to the kitchen or bathroom sink and run water through, wait 30 minutes, and run water through again. The first time allows the soil to expand.
The second time allows the soil to absorb it.
Keep temperatures less than 70 degrees during the day, and below 60 at night. Granted, if it gets cold outside, that might be harder. Try.
Finally, no matter how often it's stated, poinsettias are no more poisonous than milk, chocolate or a bee sting. In other words, it depends on the person. Granted, the plant is not meant to be eaten. But if you accidentally eat a leaf, you may feel a little queasiness or have the trots. That's about it.