Poinsettias, with little doubt, are one of the favorites among holiday plants, making their grand appearance during December. Therefore, as soon as I learnt about the Poinsettia Open House scheduled for the early part of the month at Virginia State University, I marked the date on my calendar in bold red to make sure not to miss the event, especially since we have the advantage of living fairly close to the campus.
I was perhaps one of the first persons to show up at the designated building at VSU’s Randolph Farm. Not only was it a pleasure for me to be greeted by young, enthusiastic students, but I was totally awestruck upon entering a simple room now transformed into a tropical paradise by numerous different potted specimens of poinsettias, some very unique in color and form, placed neatly on benches.
Each meticulously groomed and labeled by the variety name, the poinsettias exhibited there were selected, grown and nurtured under the leadership of Chris Catanzaro, assistant professor of plant science /horticulture. Therefore, unlike the open houses at garden centers, the environment was more academic and research oriented. Though busy taking pictures, Dr. Catanzaro took time to answer questions of the visitors, and one could sense that he loves working with poinsettias.
Of the two handouts we were given, the first was about the detailed procedure that was adopted for their culture, from root cuttings to mature flowering plants, along with general tips for taking care of poinsettias. But the second one proved to be a challenge, as we were asked to give our choice of the top three in each of the two categories that were displayed. After going back and forth in deciding which I felt were the best, a most unexpected reward was given to each of us: A healthy poinsettia in full bloom that was grown at the premises!
Give poinsettias bright, indirect light, as direct light fades color, and keep the soil moist, but not wet. Also, make sure not to let the container sit in water for too long, the care sheet emphasized, and, whenever possible, place plants in a cool place, as low as 55 degrees, because cooler temperatures prolong the plants’ life. Now that I know, I am taking good care of my “free” prized possession, which, incidentally, is not red like most people prefer, but a lovely orange-pink, the color that matches the décor of our family room. It is indeed looking pretty as a picture.