Tips for Making Your Poinsettia Shine Through the Season and Beyond

Originally appeared National Garden Bureau

Ask The Experts about Poinsettias!

Few plants are as iconic as the poinsettia. The eye-catching blooms are a holiday tradition around the world. But the blooms aren’t a flower at all, they’re actually the leaves, or bracts, of the plant. Poinsettia are native to Central America, and in 1825, those stunning red leaves captured the attention of the United States ambassador to Mexico. A century later, the poinsettia was brought to market as a Christmas season plant in the U.S.

Today, red is still the most popular color, making up about 80% of all the poinsettias grown. Breeders around the world are developing new varieties that offer more color choices for holiday décor. Shoppers can choose from brilliant whites, deep burgundy hues, sparkling pinks, and a number of other specialty colors. 

White Poinsettias are a popular color for the holiday season - National Garden Bureau
Pink poinsettias are ideal for decoration in any home - National Garden Bureau
Poinsettias are available in fun exciting blends - National Garden Bureau
“Breeders are also enhancing features that make the plants more enjoyable for everyone,” says Diane Blazek, executive director of National Garden Bureau. “They’re developing varieties that bloom earlier, have longer-lasting blooms, and unique bract shapes.” National Garden Bureau talked with member poinsettia experts to get a few tips for choosing, displaying, and caring for this holiday plant.

How To Choose Your Poinsettia

When selecting your poinsettia look for healthy cyathia or yellow flowers in the center of the plants - National Garden Bureau

Make sure the small yellow flowers (cyathia) in the center of the colored bracts are fresh.

Make sure the colored bracts are healthy and not wrinkled for extended poinsettia care - National Garden Bureau

Look for colored bracts that are healthy and full.

Look at the lower foliage and make sure the leaves are green and healthy when you select a poinsetttia for the holiday season - National Garden Bureau

Make sure the lower leaves are green and there are no droopy leaves.

There are a few things to look for when choosing your poinsettia. “Make sure that the small yellow flowers in the center of the bracts (called cyathia – you can use that in your next cocktail party trivia!) are fresh and not turning brown,” says Karl Trellinger and Matt Blanchard, product managers with Syngenta Flowers. Poinsettias with withering or missing center flowers are past their prime.

Next, be sure both the leaves and the bracts look healthy. “The foliage can tell you a lot about the health of your poinsettia,” says Lisa Heredia, marketing and key accounts for Danziger North America. “Look at the lower foliage and make sure the leaves are green and healthy. Check to make sure the overall plant is well hydrated, you don’t want to see any droopy leaves.”

Don’t Overwater 

Experts agree overwatering is the most common problem when it comes to poinsettia care. “In the typical home, poinsettia only needs water every 5-7 days,” says Rebecca Siemonsma, North American product manager for Dummen Orange. “Pick up the pot and if it feels light, then you want to water it.”

Remove the decorative pot to water or punch holes in it for poinsettia care - National Garden Bureau

Remove the Decorative Pot before Watering your Poinsettia

The decorative pot covers most poinsettia varieties are packaged in can add to the problem. They can hold too much water, something poinsettias do not like. Experts recommend punching holes in the bottom of those covers and adding a saucer. Be sure the empty the saucer so the plant is not standing in excess water.

Bringing Natural Color Indoors with Poinsettias

Princettia Pink Poinsettia is perfect for tablescapes - National Garden Bureau
Poinsettia are the perfect holiday plant that works well when paired with other plants - National Garden Bureau
Princettia Pure White Poinsettia makes a wonderful gift and home decor - National Garden Bureau

Beautiful all on their own, poinsettia are also a natural for pairing with other holiday plants. “During the holiday season there is no better way to bring natural color into your décor,” says Delilah Onofrey, marketing director, Suntory Flowers. “Mix them in dish gardens with other greenery such as ferns, and other foliage plants. Pair them with other blooming plants such as cyclamen and orchids. Or, have several of the same color in decorative pots for a tablescape.”

“Pairing newer silver and variegated foliage plants always look beautiful with red poinsettias,” mentioned Gary Vollmer, product manager, Selecta One.

Poinsettia are NOT Poisonous

It is a common belief that poinsettia plants are poisonous. But the fact is, they’re NOT. An Ohio State University study, conducted in 1971, debunked this myth. Researchers found the plant is not toxic, even in high doses.

Don't worry, Poinsettias are only mildly toxit to dogs and cats -National Garden Bureau

Poinsettias are NOT poisonous to Dogs and Cats

Most veterinary medicine websites state that poinsettias can be mildly toxic to dogs and cats and can cause vomiting, drooling, and, rarely, diarrhea. Symptoms are self-limiting and generally don’t require medical treatment, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. (Reference: Poinsettia’s Poisonous Reputation Persists, Despite Proof to the Contrary, CFAES at OSU)

Can you save your Poinsettia for next year? 

If you live in a warmer climate, you can plant your poinsettia outside. But, experts agree, it is tough to get them to look as good as they do when you purchase them for the holidays at a garden center. They require very detailed growing conditions. “I am a poinsettia breeder, and I don’t even try this at home,” adds Rebecca Siemonsma. “I just throw the plant away at the end of the season and buy new next year.” 

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