Poinsettias add a rainbow of color to holiday decor

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URBANA – With their bright red flowers, poinsettias are a holiday tradition, but buyers don’t have to limit their selection to just one color. This winter, celebrate and decorate with a rainbow of poinsettias.

Andrew Holsinger, a horticultural extension professor at the University of Illinois, says there are many new shades to choose from.

“Beyond the traditional natural shades of red, there are many other colors that can be looked for when purchasing a poinsettia,” Holsinger explains. “If you’re like me, you don’t want to limit your selection to traditional red.”

There are a number of natural colors available including pink, white, yellow, and salmon. All blue and purple poinsettias are actually cream-colored varieties that have been spray painted.

The color of poinsettia comes from the bracts which are actually modified leaves. These bracts are invited to change color in response to shorter winter daylight. While the bracts of some varieties of poinsettia are evenly colored, others offer patterns that add to the uniqueness of these plants.

Some new and unique varieties to look out for are Orange Spice, Ice Punch, Peppermint Twist, Winter Rose, Red Winter Rose, and Red Glitter.

Pinsettias are compact plants which, when properly cared for, have long lasting color. Keeping them at the ideal temperature of 65 to 70 degrees during the day will keep the plants healthy and their colors more vibrant. Simple plants can be used as a table flower decoration. A mass display of poinsettias makes a stunning wave of holiday color.

“Once the holidays are over, the poinsettias can be saved for the next season,” Holsinger explains. “To ‘bloom’ a poinsettia again, bring it indoors after summer and provide the proper lighting conditions to trigger coloring. “

Artificially colored plants will not retain their tinted color.

When choosing plants, select either green-tipped or red-tipped cyathus poinsettias. Instead of the colorful bracts, cyathi are the true flowers of these plants. The greenish-yellow flowers are clustered in the center of the bracts. Cyathia can be examined when purchasing a poinsettia to determine freshness and duration of flowering. Plants with yellow cyaths or pollen indicate that the plant is past its peak.

A healthy plant will need a suitable location. Provide enough light but no direct sunlight. Avoid drafts from windows or heating vents. Make sure adequate drainage is provided. Aluminum wrappers often thwart successful storage of poinsettias during the holiday season because they keep the container from completely draining.

When decorating your home, a nifty and fun project can be painting poinsettias. Start with a cream-colored variety and get a dye suitable for floral application. Be sure to protect table tops when applying special floral spray paints.

Find out how to take care of poinsettias with a University of Illinois Extension fact sheet at go.illinois.edu/PoinsettiaCare.

Extension of the University of Illinois

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