Holiday Poinsettia

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It’s that time of year already! From the stores in the shopping mall to the restaurant, the inescapable sounds of holiday music are heating up the airwaves before we ‘ve gobbled down the last bite of turkey and stuffing. Thankfully, the beautiful poinsettia plant and the rosemary topiary “mini-tree” are also a part of the sights and smells of the holiday season. Now the fun part – to keep them looking great.

The poinsettia is the best-selling potted plant in the United States, so we all have ample opportunity to enjoy them in our own homes. Like in most things, a strong start means everything to a successful finish. Success with poinsettias begins with selection. Reds are still the most popular poinsettia. However, there are also the pinks, whites, and those with marbled foliage (the color parts are actually colored bracts, not the flowers). Whichever look appeals to you, chose a plant with dark-green foliage, completely colored bracts, and no sign of wilting.

Even though we associate this plant with Christmas, it originates in Mexico where it grows as a 10-15 feet tall perennial shrub, and it doesn’t like cold temperatures. Temperatures below 55°F will damage this tropical plant. But by using a few practical methods, poinsettias are easy to care for plant that will last for the entire holiday.

Place the plants in a well-lit location. Poinsettia generally do best at the same temperatures we keep our homes in the winter – from 60 to 68°F. Remember, your heating system is also pulling humidity out of the air as well so be sure to check the moisture to the roots. Water when the surface of the potting soil feels dry, but the plant still feels a bit heavy when picked up. Don’t let the pot sit in water to avoid checking on the moisture. The roots will drown and you’ll lose the plant. No roots, no plant.

Another popular holiday plant is the rosemary topiary. Shaped like a mini-Christmas tree, this Mediterranean plant is a treat for the senses. An evergreen herb, it’s great in the kitchen, ornamental in the garden, used in aromatherapy and doesn’t need toImage of a poinsettia be pampered. In fact, too much nurturing and attention indoors will have a negative result.

Successfully growing rosemary indoors requires good sunlight and air movement to avoid trouble from aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew. A southern exposure would be great. Use insecticidal soap if insects become an issue. Excess water will damage the roots and cause the plant to die, so let the soil dry, then water thoroughly. When warm weather arrives, plant your rosemary outside in a sunny, very well-drained spot along with some thyme, oregano, marjoram, and lavender. They also like Mediterranean-like conditions.

So before you succumb from one more rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”, take a sip of some holiday hot chocolate, breath in the scented air of your rosemary topiary, and let your eyes soak up the glorious colors of the poinsettia while you reflect on what is truly important.

For more information about poinsettias and rosemary topiary care take a look at the University of Illinois Extension and the University of Maryland Extension.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.