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Tips to take care of your Poinsettia Plants

The Christmas season has officially began once the most popular holiday decoration makes its debut - 'the most beautiful euphorbia' - the poinsettia . I couldn't resist picking up a few this past weekend and I am sure a couple more will make their may home with me this season.

Whether you enjoy the beauty of the poinsettia in your own holiday decor or pass this traditional gift on to others - the charm of these potted plants can last well throughout the season and beyond with a little diligence. This week's Tuesday Ten details some pointers on selecting the best potted poinsettia and tips on how to take care of these favorite holiday plants.
1. When choosing a poinsettia look for signs of a good healthy plant including rich colorful leaves - full dense dark green foliage - stiff sturdy stems - no falling leaves.
2. The colorful bunches of leaves on a poinsettia plant are called bracts and are not the considered the flowers of the plant. The actual flower is located in the center of leaf bunches - they should be yellow/green in color and unopened. It should look like they are just beginning to grow - This signifies the plant is still in the early stages of the flowering cycle.
3. Protect the plant from cold weather especially when transporting from the store to home. Cover the plant with a bag to protect it from the elements and do not leave it in your vehicle for a prolonged period of time.

poinsettia flower pouch via martha stewart
4. If the plant is wrapped in decorative plastic remove it once you have the plant home. This will increase the air flow and prevent the plant from sitting in water.
5. Place the poinsettia in the brightest sunny spot available indoors. The plant should receive at least five hours of sunlight a day.
6. Poinsettias do not prefer wet conditions so water only when the soil is dry to the touch. The best way to water the plant is to let the water flow into the soil until it drains out of the bottom - however do not let the plant sit in water - let it drain completely.
7. As with most houseplants, if your home is dry and lacks humidity, the plant may need to be checked and watered more frequently.
8. Poinsettias like it warm but not hot. Maintain a temp between 60 to 70.
Do not set the plants near cold drafts like doorways or really warm spaces like fireplaces or heating ducts. If you spot a plants foliage becoming droopy - move to a brighter, warmer location. Make sure, if the plant is placed near a window, the leaves do not come in contact with the cold glass panes as they will cause damage to the plant.

how to sear poinsettia stems via southern living
9. Cut poinsettia stems can be placed in water and live up to two weeks. To prolong the life of the cut stems they can be seared with a pillar candle - check out this article from Southern Living for complete instructions.
10. Poinsettias are said to be one of the hardest and most difficult plant to get to re-bloom.
Once the blooming period is over and the leaves start to fall, reduce watering the plant - only to keep the soil from completely drying out. Store the plant in a cool, ventilated area - like the garage. Around March/April prune the stem back to about 6 inches to promote new plant growth and re-pot the plant - as the pots they are typically sold in will become too small. Keep the plant in a bright location and resume regular watering. As growth develops pinch back new shoots until mid August to create a bushy balanced plant.
The poinsettia plant flowers only when it gets less than 12 hours a day of sunlight. To encourage Christmas blooming, put the plant in a dark closet every night and place in bright location during the day - beginning in October and continuing through until Thanksgiving. Once color starts to show on the bracts resume with the typical poinsettia care cycle.
Oppose to many myths, poinsettias are non toxic and safe to have in your home - that said, they obviously should not be digested by humans or pets. If keeping them alive from year to year is not your thing they are safe to put in the compost pile at the end of the season.
Happy Holidays,

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