Holiday planting: The festive Mexican poinsettia flower

By Gregg Eyestone

You may select your favorite poinsettia from over 50 cultivars and be part of K-State research. The annual viewing of these plants will be on Wednesday, Nov. 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The poinsettias will be on display in the main concourse of Throckmorton Hall greenhouse range which is along Denison Avenue in Manhattan.

The red poinsettia is a favorite Christmas time decoration. Several breeders have put a spin on the color red. Besides many shades of red, poinsettias come in white, marble, pink speckled and others. You can take a white one and dye it any color you want, such as purple.

Poinsettia plants became a Christmas time decoration because in their natural habitat of Mexico, they are in full flower at that time.

Flowering is “photoperiodic” induced in the poinsettia. Without long nights, this plant will continue to produce leaves and will grow but will never flower.

The flowers themselves are not that eye catching.

They give way to the colorful bracts or modified leaves. However, the flowers are a good indicator of the maturity of the plant.

A fresh poinsettia is one on which little or no yellow pollen is showing on the flower clusters in the center of the bracts. Really old plants are missing their flowers however, the colorful bracts remain.

Once you make your selections, place your poinsettia in a spot with bright natural light, but don’t let it touch cold windowpanes.

The day temperature should not be more than 75 degrees Fahrenheit with 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit will shorten bloom life, and below 60 degrees Fahrenheit may cause root rot. Move plants away from windows at night or draw drapes between them to avoid damage from the cold.

Poinsettias do best with a constantly moist but not wet potting media. Examine the potting media daily for moistness.

Picking up the container can be a good indicator of moisture. Heavy pots don’t need water and light pots need moisture added.

Water the plant until some water runs out of the container’s drainage holes and the potting media is moist. Discard the excess water.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the Riley County, K-State Research and Extension website at

You can contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension at 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan, by calling 785-537-6350 or e-mail:

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