POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 6, 2010
Poinsettias can transition from Christmas into New Year's decorations with some additional flair. Get dried, curly ting ting plant branches from a florist or craft supply shop, and place the stems into the pot and among the poinsettia foliage.
Ting ting comes in silver, gold, red, green and natural colors. Floral supply shops also carry spray glitter that is safe for plants. Simply changing the container or decorative wrap will also freshen up the plants to carry into next year.
Poinsettias are native to Central America and tropical Mexico. A botanist and diplomat named Joel Robert Poinsett, who served as a U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829, is credited with making this plant known throughout the world.
Poinsettias of today look much different from those found growing in the tropics. Short, bushy types have been developed for indoor holiday decoration. Intensive hybridization has resulted in beautiful new colors, including cream, yellow, peach, pink, improved reds and marbled and speckled bracts. The modern hybrids also hold their color for many weeks, lasting through the holidays and into the new year.
The brilliant color of the poinsettia does not come from the flowers, but rather the bracts. Bracts, often mistaken for flower petals, are actually modified leaves. The true flowers are small, yellow buttons, called cyathia, in the center of the colorful bracts. In November and December, when the days grow shorter, the colorful bracts begin to form.
To ensure healthy-looking plants for New Year's, follow these tips from University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension agents:
» Keep poinsettias near a window where they will get bright light, but extreme heat will wilt the foliage.
» Water plants when the growing medium is dry to the touch. Use cool tap water and allow water to drain out the bottom of the pot. Decorative wraps can trap water and suffocate the roots.
» Never allow the plants to stand in water more than 30 minutes. Excess water causes the roots to die from root-rotting diseases and a lack of oxygen. Be sure to let all water drain from the pots by piercing the decorative wrap or taking the pots out of the decorative wrap before watering.
Although it is a time-consuming effort, poinsettias can be kept year-round and displayed again. Information on how to keep your poinsettias through the year can be obtained by calling the University of Hawaii Master Gardener Helpline from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays at 453-6055.
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
Jayme Grzebik is an urban horticulturist with the University of Hawaii's Cooperative Extension Service, part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Reach her at email@example.com.