In the Garden: Caring for your holiday poinsettias

A holiday tradition has its origins in Mexico: the poinsettia plant. But did you know poinsettias also come in a tree form? Horticulture students at Hennepin Technical College grew more than 1,000 poinsettias for class projects, and now they're all on sale.

With a little imagination, the plant's  red and white colors can look like candy canes. Or for something a little different, how about a poinsettia tree?

"It is not traditional," says Deb Kvamme, horticulture instructor at Hennepin Technical College. "You can see the top here is a little bit different. It's crinkled. It's a very slow growing poinsettia so I chose that for the tree."
Floral design instructor Tiffany Hammond suggests wrapping the pot with a water-resistant foil that looks like holiday wrapping paper.  She likes to top it off with a bow. It looks nice and holds the decorative foil in place.

"It's not as festive without it," Hammond says.

So how long can you keep them looking festive? The experts say you can actually make any of these survive and bloom again for the next holiday season. 

"Die hards will keep them past July, and they'll actually cut them back in May and you'll get green leaves just like a regular plant," says Kvamme. "Then by the time September comes, that's when you put it in the closet and it will turn for you again."
Watering and where you place it in your house is the key. Keep it out of hot sun and not too close to a heater. Both will dry out the plant. 

Kvamme says there's a trick to knowing when to water. "You want the top to be dry, but you don't want the bottom to be dry."
And don't foreget, even the short trip in the car can cause damage if its exposed to Minnesota's cold weather. 

"We think of it as a Christmas plant and we think it can go outside," says Tiffany Hammond. "But its actually a tropical plant. so if its exposed to low temperatures it'll start to turn black and not be as beautiful for you." 

Mike Johnson, reporting

November 29, 2011


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