Garden View: How to choose the best poinsettias for the holiday season

BY LORI MURRAY

SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

One of the joys of my Christmas season is gazing at the sea of red that dominates huge areas in so many stores as retailers tempt us to take home a red poinsettia of our very own.

Introduced to the U.S. in 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, our first ambassador to Mexico, the flower has become a big part of our Christmas culture. But how can we know which pot to select? And how do we keep it from losing leaves once we have it home? A little understanding of the flower’s composition can help us choose a plant that will give us a great deal of pleasure during the holidays and, living in the Rio Grande Valley, many subsequent years of enjoyment.

First of all, check the soil moisture. The plants shouldn’t be so dry that they are wilting, nor should they be in soupy saturated soil. If you don’t want to stick your finger in the dirt, pick up a few different plants. The lighter the pot, the dryer the soil.

The condition of the leaves is another clue. The most healthy poinsettias have dark green leaves with even coloration.

Poinsettias with yellowing leaves with brown tips or brown edges won’t last as long when you bring them home. Additionally, going from hot to cold to hot again may cause the plant to lose its leaves.

The big test is seeing plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.

The freshest plants won’t be blooming yet, so the flowers will not be yellow but will be little few things you can do to preserve their long-lasting color display.

They prefer cool temperature and no wind, so keep them away from the heat or air conditioning vents. Really warm temperatures can cause them to mature too quickly, and drafts can dry them out and cause them to drop their leaves. Keep your plant away from animals, small children, or heavily used traffic areas as they are easily damaged. Poinsettias keep their bright colors longer if they are kept at 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have the time, putting your plant outside at night, protected from breezes, frost and wind, is an excellent practice.

Give your plants some natural light – the more the better. Direct sunlight is not necessary, and too much direct sunlight through a window can burn the leaves, so just a bright sunny room is best. Water your plants only when the soil is dry to the touch, and be careful not to let your plant stand in water after watering, even for as little as one hour, as this will cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop off. Loaded with color and available everywhere, poinsettias are an easy way to decorate your home with holiday spirit.