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Garden Help Desk: Make sure to choose the right poinsettias

By USU Extension - | Dec 4, 2021

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

A long screwdriver is an easy way to see if soil is frozen.

It’s the perfect time in the Holiday season to bring home a beautiful poinsettia. If you’ve done just that-choosing a sturdy plant with dark green leaves and unopened flowers, protecting it from the cold when you left the nursery, and sliding off the plastic sleeve as soon as you were home. Now that you have your poinsettia, how do you keep it looking good for the rest of the season?

Put your poinsettia in the brightest location that will meet your holiday decorating needs. Your plant will need as much bright, indirect light as you can give it. The more hours of bright light your plant gets, the deeper the colors will be and the longer those colors will last.

Make sure you give your poinsettia a safe space to spend the Holidays. Poinsettias stems are brittle, so your plant’s brightly lit place should also be a where people don’t brush past it or bump into it. Also avoid places near windows, exterior doors, fireplaces, and furnace vents. Most people know that poinsettias are very sensitive to the cold, and keep their plants away from chilly windows, too, but warm drafts are also harmful. Being too close to a furnace vent or fireplace can dry out the foliage much faster than the roots can replace the moisture.

If you need your poinsettia to beautify a place that won’t provide the best conditions, you can simply move your plant where it’s needed for special events and then put it back in a better location at other times.

Water properly. Poinsettias don’t like to dry down completely, but they also won’t tolerate overwatering. Thorough, less frequent watering is better than adding a little water to the pot every day or two. When the plant feels a little lightweight and the upper half- inch or so of the soil is dry, it’s time to water. Water thoroughly so that the pot feels heavy again and some water comes out the bottom of the pot.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Brown tips on needles are a sign of moisture stress during the previous winter. A slow deep soak in late November and then again during dry winter weather can prevent this.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind about those pretty pot covers that come with your poinsettia.

One- it’s best to remove your poinsettia pot from its decorative cover when you water so that there is never standing water in the pot cover. If that isn’t practical, you’ll need remove any standing water from the pot cover after the potting soil has had several minutes to drain. Poinsettias are susceptible to root rot, and standing water contributes to this problem.

Two- those pot covers can develop small leaks, so you can’t rely on them to protect carpets and furniture from unexpected moisture.

There’s one extra job you won’t need to add to your busy Holiday season when bring home a poinsettia. You won’t need to fertilize unless you’re going to keep your poinsettia for more than a few weeks during the holidays.

Give your poinsettia bright light, good care and protection from accidents, and you’ll have a beautiful, colorful plant beyond the end of the Holiday season.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Solid red is the most popular color for poinsettias but you can also find poinsettias with bracts (colored leaves) that are deep plum colored, pink, white, or even red bracts flecked with yellow or white.

It seems like we haven’t had enough rain this fall. Should I water my trees? What about the perennials? Do they need water when it’s dry like this, even though they’ve died back for the winter?

Evergreen trees and shrubs are the landscape plants that need the most attention during the winter. They continue to lose moisture through their needles and leaves and ideally that moisture is replaced as water moves from the soil into the roots and up through the plant. If your soil is frozen, moisture can’t be pulled up and into the plants when our dry winter winds blow through their foliage.

If your trees were watered deeply in late November and you also added a deep layer of mulch, there’s probably still be enough soil moisture for them now.

For the rest of the winter, check the soil within 20 inches of your evergreens every month or so. If our weather has been dry, the soil feels dry, and the soil isn’t frozen, your evergreens will benefit from a slow, deep soak over their root zones. You can check the soil with a long screwdriver; it won’t move through the soil easily if the soil is dry and won’t move through at all if the soil is frozen. Don’t water if our soil is frozen and don’t forget to disconnect your hose once you’re done watering!

Perennials that have died back for the winter don’t need watering.

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