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How to pick the perfect poinsettia

Tips to keep these holiday plants looking good and lasting weeks

Red poinsettia
Red poinsettias are by far the most popular, but shoppers can find pink,
yellow, white and variegated ones as well. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)



A walk through local garden shops and supermarkets reminds us once again: It’s poinsettia season!

Shades of red — from brightest crimson to deepest burgundy — continue to be the most popular poinsettia varieties. But this year, you’ll also find a wide range of other hues — from pure white to butter yellow to vivid pink — as well as many variegated poinsettias.

If you want to keep that poinsettia looking its best, keep it indoors out of the cold, wind and rain. If poinsettias feel a chill, they drop their leaves.

Native to temperate coastal areas with winters in the 70s, poinsettias can be finicky. A member of the euphorbia family, they can’t take too much cold or heat, preferring temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees.

Fortunately, most Sacramento poinsettias don’t have to travel far to get to stores – and your home. Now part of the Green Acres Nursery & Supply family, Eisley Nusery in Auburn grows thousands of poinsettias each year for the Sacramento market.

To get the most out of your poinsettia and to keep it looking good into the new year, follow these tips:

* Purchase a poinsettia with dark green leaves all the way to the soil line; it still has all its foliage. That’s a good sign of freshness; skip plants with yellowed or many missing leaves. Avoid any that look wilted, dried out or overly wet.

* Look at the actual flowers – the little nubs in the center of the bloom. The flowers should be green or red and look fresh. If already yellow and covered with pollen, those flowers mean the poinsettia’s days are numbered.

* Take off the foil or paper wrapping; it traps too much water around the roots. Poinsettias need good drainage and don’t like standing in water. Put a saucer under the pot and, after watering, drain any excess.

* Treat poinsettias like Goldilocks; they want it just right. Exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees, even for a few minutes, can cause leaf drop. Consider that before creating outdoor displays; they’ll last one night.

* Inside, find a spot with indirect light for six hours a day, away from drafts or forced heat. Poinsettias like days in the 60s; slightly cooler (55 degrees) and dark at night.

* Poinsettias prefer soil on the dry side, but don’t let it completely dry out. Feel the soil daily and water when needed.

* After bloom, poinsettias can be fed a balanced liquid fertilizer to prompt new growth. If kept comfortable, they may rebloom next year.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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