For the special December meeting of the garden club I belong to, we met at a local garden center to hear one of the associates give pointers on taking care of holiday plants – a very season-appropriate topic indeed. And, while not a surprise, she started with a poinsettia, referring to the plant as the ‘Queen of Holiday Plants”. Setting aside the gender issue, poinsettias, with little doubt, are the stars of the show at this time of the year, making a grand appearance not just in the color red, the all-time-favorite, but other colors also to fit one’s personal taste or the home decor. In fact, choosing one from the large selection available these days is a lot of fun, but can be a challenge too. Speaking of which, I found myself in a similar situation recently at the 2012 Poinsettia Open House at Virginia State University.
I was, perhaps, one of the first to arrive at the Randolph Farm Greenhouse Complex where the event was held. Upon entering the designated building, it was such a pleasure to be warmly greeted by Dr Chris Catanzaro, Assistant Professor of Plant Science /Horticulture under whose leadership the plants are selected, grown and nurtured; needless to say, each of the neatly displayed potted poinsettias was meticulously groomed and labeled by the cultivar name.
Though busy, Dr Catanzaro took time to answer visitors questions and explain how to fill the Dept. of Agriculture’s Poinsettia Preference Survey he was conducting. The survey which was quite user-friendly was broken down into ranking the favorites from three categories: the red cultivars, novelty cultivars and the white cultivars. The task was, by no means, easy, for all of them were equally lovely. Nevertheless, after going back and forth in deciding which were my top choices and turning in the survey, each of the attendees got a generous reward: A healthy, blooming poinsettia grown at the premises. Furthermore, to complement our gift, we were given a handout called “Points on Poinsettias,” which details the procedure adopted for the culture – from root cuttings to mature flowering plants, along with general tips on taking care of poinsettias.
Give them bright, indirect light as bright light might fade colors, making sure to keep small children and pets away from plants. Also, allow plants to dry between watering, not letting the containers sit in water for too long, further emphasized the care sheet. Whenever possible, place the plants in a cool place, but not below 55 degrees, because cool temperatures extend the plants life.
Lastly, states the handout “when your plant becomes unattractive, throw it away. We’ll grow more!” Wow! That is some guarantee. Not only do attendees get a free plant now, but an assurance to get a poinsettia the next season too. What more can one ask for?