From The Garden by P. Allen Smith

Caring for Poinsettias

Poinsettias are among the most popular holiday houseplants, and it’s easy to see why. The traditional red and green varieties can’t be beat when it comes to decorating for Christmas. But there is an exciting array of new colors—like pink, white, orange and purple—that offer even more ways to deck your halls. I like to use the creamy white varieties in an arrangement with green apples, boughs of evergreens and votive candles.

Poinsettias are relatively care-free if you follow a few simple guidelines to keep them happy:

» Buy only plants with tightly clustered, small, central flowers and crisp, bright foliage.

» Protect plants from temperatures lower than 50 degrees as you transport them home.

» Water thoroughly when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Pour off any excess so the plants never sit in water.

» Fertilize the plants within several days of purchase. I like to use an easy, all-purpose liquid fertilizer.

» To prolong poinsettias’ color, keep the plants in rooms where the temperature is around 60 degrees at night and 72 degrees during the daytime.

» Place the plants away from drafts and sources of heat such as vents, fireplaces or direct sunlight.

» Poinsettias prefer high humidity. To increase humidity around the plant, place it in a shallow dish of gravel and add water.