URBANA – Poinsettias represent 80 percent of all potted plant sales in the United States during the holiday season, said University of Illinois Extension educator Ron Wolford.
“There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today,” Wolford said. “They come in a myriad of colors like red, white, pink and burgundy. Keeping your poinsettias healthy during the holiday season in the dry indoor environments in many homes can be a challenge.”
Wolford offers a few tips for keeping poinsettias healthy.
- Purchase a poinsettia with fully colored bracts (modified leaves) and tightly closed flower buds. The plant will start to decline after the flower buds have completely opened.
- After purchasing the poinsettia, make sure it is wrapped completely. Exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees in just the short walk to the car can damage the bracts and leaves.
- Place the poinsettia near a south-, west-, or east-facing window. Six hours of indirect light is ideal. Placing the plant in direct light may cause the colorful bracts to fade.
- Indoor temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees are ideal for long plant life. Placing the plant in a room a few degrees cooler at night will extend the color show of the poinsettia. Temperatures above 80 degrees will shorten the life of the bracts.
- Keep the poinsettia away from warm or cold drafts. Drafts can cause premature leaf drop.
- Overwatering is the number one poinsettia killer. Water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch. After watering, thoroughly empty any water in the pot’s saucer. Be sure to punch holes in the decorative foil to allow water to drain through.
- Do not fertilize when the poinsettia is in bloom. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month after it blooms.
“Research at the Ohio State University has shown that poinsettias are not poisonous,” Wolford noted. “Some people are sensitive to the plant’s sap, causing skin irritation.
“For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. It is probably best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens.”
For more information on poinsettias, Wolford recommended the University of Illinois Extension website The Poinsettia Pages at www.urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia.