With the holidays rapidly approaching, soon one of the most popular plants on earth will be available for sale. The plant I am referring to is the colorful Poinsettia. These beautiful plants are most commonly known for their red color, but they also can come in many other colors, such as white, pink and some can even be multi-colored.
Since most retailers offer mass displays of these gems, you will have an almost unlimited choice of plants you will want to bring home. As beautiful as these plants are, they also are fragile and you must handle them gently or the delicate branches will break and fall off. During my lifetime, I have unpacked and displayed no less than 100,000 of these beauties and I still do not tire of their delicate appearance.
Poinsettias have an interesting history dating back to the 14th century. In fact, during the period from the 14th to the 16th century, the Aztec Indians called Poinsettias "Cuetlaxochitle" and they used the sap to control fevers and the leaves, or bracts, were used to produce a red dye. The botanical name for the Poinsettia -- Euphorbia Pulcherria -- was coined by the German botanist Wilenow. He first discovered the plant growing through a crack in his greenhouse and he was so amazed at the color of the plant that he gave it that name, which means "very beautiful."
Many people believe poinsettias are poisonous. The truth is they are not. It is true, however, that some people are allergic to the white sap of the plant and skin irritation can develop. If you are one of those people with sensitive skin, you should handle the plants with care.
For a retailer during the holiday season, having a fresh batch of Poinsettias is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. These wonderful plants create an eye-catching display that will certainly draw a crowd.
So, with all the choices, how do I pick that perfect plant? The first thing you want to look for is plants that have been removed from their sleeves. Many retailers will display the plant with the sleeve intact and if the plant sits on the shelf too long, this can cause the leaves to yellow and drop and eventually the plant may die. It is much better to choose plants that have been removed from their sleeves. If you do choose a plant that is sleeved, remove the plastic as soon as you get the plant home.
The next thing you want to look for is plants that have little or no pollen showing on the flower clusters. This is a good indicator of the maturity of the flower bracts. You should always choose plants that have a lush, green color to their foliage and have a good healthy appearance. Avoid plants that look droopy or have yellowing leaves. While choosing your plants, handle the plants carefully so as not to break the adjoining plants so everybody can have a chance at getting a prime looking plant.
Once you have chosen your gem and you have your plant in its new home, some standard TLC will ensure you get a long lifespan from your new houseguest. If you are keeping your plant indoors and it is not near a good light source, occasionally put it in a sunny location so it can get the light it needs to maintain a healthy look. If the plant starts to drop leaves excessively, it is probably not getting enough bright light and you will need to move it.
Always keep your plant away from cold drafts and low temperatures. Poinsettias will not do well if the temperature drops below 45. You should also check your plants for soil moisture daily and be sure your plant has good drainage and does not sit in standing water. Keep the plant evenly moist but not soaking wet.
If you follow these simple tips, you should be able to enjoy your plants through the entire holiday season. After the holidays are over, you can plant them outdoors in a protected location, such as under a tree, and you can enjoy them year after year.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website hometowngarden.com.