Using Poinsettias as Cut Flowers

Our favorite holiday potted plant becomes much more versatile when we start thinking outside the pot.

+ enlarge image Poinsettia 'Winter Rose' Photo: Paul Ecke Ranch

When you think "poinsettia," what comes to mind? A pretty red -- or perhaps white -- flower in a pot on the coffee table? If so, get ready for some pleasant surprises. This staple of the holiday gardening season has blossomed into a new range of colors. Even more exciting: It turns out that poinsettias make excellent cut flowers if you treat them right.

Related slide show: The New Look of Poinsettias

Related slide show: New Ways to Use Poinsettias

Poinsettias as Cut Flowers

Once a poinsettia leaves the pot, it's free to spread its wings in new places. For example, you can place several cuttings of various colors in a vase to make a colorful addition to a mantel. Or tuck the stems into floral picks -- those water-filled tubes that cut flowers come in -- and nestle them into holiday wreaths or Christmas trees.

Cuttings can last up to two weeks if you follow these simple steps:

  • Start by cutting stems with bracts (the colorful modified leaves we think of as the poinsettia's flowers) to the desired length.
  • Remove the lower leaves and stand the cutting in a vase of cool water for 30 minutes. Discard the cloudy water and replace it with fresh.
  • If you will be inserting the stems into floral picks, check the water level each day -- they can dry out quickly.

A Rainbow of Colors -- Almost

If you're shopping for poinsettias in supermarkets and the like, you may not have encountered the wide range of colors and patterns found in modern varieties. A visit to a well-stocked florist or garden center will turn up poinsettias that are:

+ enlarge image Poinsettia 'Jingle Bells' has white-flecked bracts that spice up any display.
  • Red (of course), ranging from plain old fire-engine to bracts that look like red velvet
  • White, or more accurately cream
  • Pink, from pale to coral
  • Purplish red (look for the variety 'Plum Pudding')
  • Marbled, speckled, and splashed -- usually in shades of red, pink, and cream
  • Variegated -- that is, the leaves are a mixture of green and cream
  • In addition to new colors, you'll also find poinsettias with bracts that curve inward, creating a "flower" that resembles a rose (look for 'Winter Rose' in several shades of red, pink, and cream) and miniature poinsettias with smaller than usual bracts.

Related slide show: The Bright New Look of Poinsettias

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