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Darrell Blackwelder: Poinsettias are all over Rowan County

With the Christmas season upon us, poinsettias are abounding. Rowan County is truly blessed with commercial poinsettia growers involved in the five-month process from cuttings in late summer to retail sales in early November.

Even with this amount of time and care given to the development of this plant, poinsettias are a great bargain. Christmas is not the same without a poinsettia and 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 received. The chlorophyll or green color pigments gradually disappear, revealing other distinctive 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, actually, too many to list. Red is the predominant poinsettia color produced; however, there are a virtual rainbow of colors ranging from deep purples to creamy whites.

North Carolina ranks second in the nation in poinsettia production. N.C. State University is an official testing site for a national breeding program highlighting over 80 different colors and growth habits. Commercial producers began their shipment of the colorful holiday plants in November to local garden centers and big box stores, but there are still beautiful plants available from local Rowan County producers.

With proper care, poinsettias can last throughout the holiday season. 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 temperatures between 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.

• Poinsettias are not poisonous plants as many think. It was a myth perpetuated in the early 1900s and has remained with us to this very day. Display and enjoy your traditional Christmas plant throughout the holidays.

Darrell Blackwelder is a retired county director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.

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