Poinsettia — known as Christmas flower

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The wood stove in my neighborhood has an aroma that is magnificent.

It is perfect with the crispness in the air, the falling leaves and seasoned logs split and stacked, patiently waiting for their trip to the hearth.

My neighbor burns her pecan leaves, and that is another aroma that is so familiar here.

One of my favorite things to do around November and December is to obtain a poinsettia whenever I go to the store.

If this sounds like I amass a huge collection of plants, do not let me lead you astray. I search and inspect many, many pots of poinsettias waiting until I find the most perfect plant. This takes time.

What do I look for, you wonder? First I check to see if the soil is moist and the bracts large and colorful with dark green leaves. If any of the original flowers have dropped or have a lot of yellow, the plant will be short-lived, so pass on by.

After you have found that perfect plant and are about to depart the store, make sure that you are careful not to bruise or allow a sudden change in temperature.

Too much cold will cause wilt and flower bracts to drop.

I’ve read where the temperature should be between 70 and 75 degrees during the day, and at night no lower than 60 degrees. I will have to disagree with that.

Since oil prices escalated, my plants are doing great at 60 degrees daytime and 55 degrees nightly. It’s too bad that I’m not a poinsettia.

Correct watering is very important. Check the soil and try to water before it becomes completely dried out.

Most of the pots are surrounded with foil and I like this because the foil is attractive and helps maintain moisture. You must make sure that water does not stand allowing the roots to swim.

A few holes in foil might be necessary for proper drainage.

Placing your poinsettia in any location other than a North one is suitable, and a sunny location will make them happy. Try a few of these popular plants. You’ll be glad you did.

Gwen holt is a master gardener from Isle of Wight. Her e-mail address is garden@tidewaternews.com. Virginia Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training. As an educational program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Master Gardeners bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.