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Blackwelder column: Enjoy your poinsettia

Rowan poinsettia producers spend almost five months ó from cuttings to sale ó producing our favorite holiday plant.
Even with the amount of time and care given to the development of this plant, poinsettias are a great bargain. Christmas is not the same without a Christmas poinsettia. Rowan County growers have produced another outstanding crop this season.
Poinsettias are photoperiodic plants, responding in both color and growth to day lengths or the amount of light it receives. The chlorophyll (green color) gradually disappears, revealing other color pigments as a result of waning daylight hours in early September.
Color appears in the bracts or modified leaves beginning in early October. The actual flowers are small, yellow clusters in the center of the bract whirl. Many often confuse the bracts or colorful leaves as the plant’s flowers.
There are various colors and combinations available, too many to list. Commercial producers began their shipment of the colorful holiday plant earlier this month for local garden centers and big box stores. Now is the time for the best plant selections.
With proper care, poinsettias can last throughout the holidays. Below are tips from poinsettia growers on how to keep your plant looking its best for the holidays.
– Try to use a large, roomy shopping bag or box to protect your plant when transporting it. Most growers will have plastic sleeves to protect the plant.
– Place your plant in indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day. If direct sun can’t be avoided, diffuse the light with a shade or sheer curtain.
– Make sure the room temperature is between 68 and 70 degrees. If you are comfortable, so is your poinsettia, however, the cooler the better.
– Try not to expose poinsettias to temperatures below 50 degrees. Poinsettias are sensitive to cold, so avoid placing them outside during the winter months.
– Avoid placing plants near cold drafts or excessive heat. Avoid placing plants near appliances, televisions, fireplaces or ventilating ducts.
– Be sure to water your plant when the soil feels dry to the touch. Please note that over-watering quickly kills poinsettias. Do not allow it to sit in standing water. Always remove a plant from any decorative container before watering, and allow the water to drain completely.
– Poinsettias also are a great buy for all the time and care that has gone into their production. However, these plants are produced as disposable plants and should be tossed when they decline after the holiday season.
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Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970.
http://www.rowanmastergardener.com
http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu
www.rowanextension.com

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