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.
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:
Arranged in an antique serving piece, cardinal-hue poinsettias with green leaves offer a traditional red-and-green display.
To create all of these arrangements:
Poinsettia Color: Cream
Vessel: Clear cylinder
The Extras: Line the cylinder vessel with southern magnolia leaves, showing their brown backsides
Poinsettia Color: Blue
Vessel: Faceted tall silver vase
The Extras: Include greenery and dust the poinsettias and greenery with silver glitter
Poinsettia Color: Candy cane red
Vessel: Candy-striped teapot
The Extras: Glittery gold beaded sticks
Poinsettia Color: Cream-and-pink
Vessel: Vintage trophy-shape vase
The Extras: Seeded eucalyptus and red pepper berries (both available from florists)
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:
-- 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, where 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.
Price doesn't make the plant. Poinsettias are the same, whether purchased at a grocery store or at an upscale florist. At either venue, be sure to choose one that looks healthy, not droopy or wilted. Start with a healthy plant, and the beautiful bracts you snip off for your arrangements will last longer.
Green is good. Plants that have green leaves all the way to the soil line are happy. If lower leaves are missing, the plant is likely stressed.
Find the flowers. The true flowers (the tiny buds at the base of the colored bracts) should be green- or red-tipped, which means the plant is less developed. Avoid plants with yellow pollen on the flowers -- they are fully developed and won't last long.
They're fickle. Like Goldilocks, poinsettias don't like to be too hot (near a fireplace) or too cold (at a drafty window).