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Blackwelder column: Poinsettias are a bargain holiday plant

SALISBURY — Thanksgiving is the official start for holiday plants, most notably, poinsettias. It’s the official holiday plant for Rowan County.
Beginning in early August, poinsettias are a major floral crop grown by Rowan County greenhouse producers. These plants have evolved into mature and colorful holiday plants. This year’s crop is one of the best ever.
Red poinsettias are the most predominant color produced in Rowan County, but there is a virtual rainbow of colors ranging from deep purples to creamy whites. Poinsettia cultivars are also available in a multitude of solid colors, hues and blends. Poinsettia growers are constantly experimenting to produce that perfect plant that will look its best under less than perfect growing conditions.
Poinsettias are photoperiodic plants, or plants responding in both color and growth to day lengths or the amount of light they receive. Waning daylight beginning in September allows chlorophyll (the green color in leaves) to gradually disappear, revealing other color pigments. 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. By Thanksgiving, the holiday season begins and most poinsettias are at or near their peak color.
Rowan producers often shade a portion of their plants to produce early color for retail markets, while others employ light, extending the season of color throughout the holidays. Delaying color with lights offers plants for those last-minute poinsettia shoppers.
Growers constantly photograph their crop on a weekly basis as a comparison of past year’s crops. Constant monitoring helps growers determine proper cultural practices to remain on schedule. Timing and, unfortunately, weather is crucial in poinsettia production. Excessive heat or cloudy days can often test growers’ skills.
Poinsettias are a great bargain for all the time and care invested into their production. Prices remain steady over the past five years while quality, colors and selection have steadily increased.
These are produced as disposable plants and should be tossed after they decline later after the holiday season. More information on poinsettia and care can be found at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/floriculture/hils/HIL8508.pdf
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 Facebook or online at www.rowanextension.com
www.rowanmastergardener.com
rowan.ces.ncsu.edu

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