Walk into almost any store between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you will see rows of beautiful poinsettias. From a distance, the deep red poinsettias look like velvet.
They seem to be calling out, “Yes, I am real! Come touch me!” When purchased within a week of their arrival, any plant that looks nice is probably healthy and will last for weeks beyond Christmas.
However, each passing day presents a challenge for the poinsettia to maintain good health, especially in stores that do not have a regular floral department.
Take some time to look for existing problems rather than grabbing any plant off the shelf. Careful scrutiny becomes even more important when Christmas is near and the poinsettias have been on the store shelves for weeks.
Be aware of potential issues when choosing a poinsettia to ensure maximum enjoyment throughout the holiday season.
Many problems can afflict poinsettias during the growing process, but only perfect poinsettias ever make it to market. Nonetheless, perfect poinsettias will soon begin to deteriorate from inferior conditions and inconsistent care.
They are not shy about showing telltale signs of trouble. At this stage, it is not as important to know the cause of the poinsettias’ ill fate as it is to recognize a problem to leave on the shelf and find a healthier plant.
Leaves And Bracts
If the leaves or bracts are wilting, crunchy, falling off, curly edges, pale, powdery, unnaturally spotted, marked or bruised, browning, or yellowing, you should seek out a healthier plant.
The condition of the flowers is an indication of seasonal longevity. The actual flowers are in the center of the bracts. The bracts are the colored leaves thought by many to be the flowers.
Tightly closed green buds are the least mature plants and will display their seasonal bract color for the longest time. Open flowers laden with pollen signify that the plant is more mature but will still look nice for several more weeks.
Flowers that are dry mixed with buds that have dropped off indicate that the plant is near the end of its seasonal cycle.
Excessively dry or extremely wet soil are equally detrimental to the poinsettia. If the soil seems soggy and the pot is enclosed in a decorative sleeve, remove the sleeve to check for trapped water.
Stay clear of plants on either end of the spectrum, as the severity of the damage may not be revealed for a few days.
Poinsettias are rarely bothered by pests for the short time they are in the stores.
However, the abrupt change in conditions from the growers’ greenhouse to the unnatural environment of the stores could trigger a sudden outbreak of common pests.
Be on alert for white fly, spider mites, aphids, fungus gnats, mealybugs, and thrips. If any pests are detected, consider shopping for your poinsettia at a different store.
Other problematic considerations that may not be immediately evident include crowded conditions, proximity to excess cold or heat, and extended periods of severely poor light.
Most of these concerns can be eliminated by purchasing poinsettias from a floral shop or greenhouse with knowledgeable staff.
Prices may be slightly higher than at mass-market retailers, but it is a small price to pay for the confidence of knowing that the poinsettia has been properly cared for and is healthy.
Floral shops and greenhouses will also have a larger variety of colors and cultivars available. Most importantly, they will be able to provide helpful information on how to take care of your poinsettia.
No matter where you decide to purchase a poinsettia, special precautions should be taken to get it home safely. In colder climates, poinsettias must be protected from temperatures below 50°F.
Even if the poinsettia is fully enclosed in a protective shield, do not leave it in a cold vehicle to continue shopping. Likewise, in hot climates, do not leave it in a vehicle to fry. If an enclosed vehicle is too hot for a pet or human, then it is too hot for a poinsettia.
Many poinsettias are discarded after the holidays. This is a shame because the poinsettia is a fine houseplant year around. It is relatively easy to maintain.
The heavily veined, exquisite green leaves are barely noticed when the colorful bracts are getting all the attention.
If you are thinking of keeping your poinsettia this year, choosing the healthiest plant possible will give you a solid head start to many years of enjoyment.
Enjoy your poinsettia year after year. If you decide not to keep your poinsettia, think about giving it away before throwing it away.
Check with a gardening friend, garden club, or science department at local schools.