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Poinsettias are happiest indoors (at least in Sacramento)

Red poinsettias are by far the most popular, but Eisley
Nursery grows 12 varieties. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Eisley Nursery expert offers advice on how to care for this holiday favorite

It’s poinsettia season and, if you bought your plant in the greater Sacramento area, chances are it was grown in Auburn at Eisley Nursery’s greenhouses.

“We grew 28,000 total this year – how’s that for a number?” said Earlene Eisley-Freeman, retail manager of the family-run nursery. “That’s about the same as last year.”

Celebrating its 87th anniversary this year, Eisley Nursery has been growing potted poinsettias for the Sacramento market for at least half a century.

One thing has remained consistent all those decades: People want red.

“Red is by far the most popular (poinsettia),” Eisley-Freeman said. “Red is what people buy most, but we do grow them in 12 different ‘flavors.’ There are more varieties than plain red.”

Yellow, pink and white poinsettias also are available. So are ones with variegated bracts.

“I personally have a favorite – a gorgeous burgundy,” Eisley-Freeman said. “Its variety is Cortez Burgundy.”

Nursery patriarch Earle Eisley, whose mother founded the nursery in 1932, has a poinsettia pick with a difference, too.

“Dad’s favorite is Ice Punch,” Eisley-Freeman said. “(The bracts) have pink centers and red borders. It’s really pretty.”

This season, the poinsettias look especially nice, she noted. “They seemed to like the weather. Actually, they colored up real good.”

Of course, Eisley’s poinsettias stay indoors and out of the wind or rain.

“They do not do well outside here at all!” Eisley-Freeman said. “In Sacramento, they are indoor plants only. On a sunny day, maybe you can put them outside for a few hours. But they won’t be happy.”

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 65 and 75 degrees.

Said Eisley-Freeman, “They’re like Goldilocks; they like it just right.”


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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