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Beyond red: Poinsettias now are pretty in pink

Popular holiday plant comes in wide range of hues including several shades of pink

Whether  pink or white or red -- or some combination -- poinsettias like warmth (but not too much).

Whether pink or white or red -- or some combination -- poinsettias like warmth (but not too much). Courtesy Princettia

Red flowers may be traditional for the holidays, but this eye-popping color makes people say wow.

It seems apropos that in the year of “Barbie” the hottest-selling poinsettia hue this season is pink.

Poinsettias already come in practically every shade of red, from brightest crimson to deepest burgundy. Selective breeding widened their spectrum from pure white and butter yellow to variegated combinations.

Improvements in pink poinsettias have pushed these holiday blooms to the forefront. They’ve also pushed up poinsettia season to as early as October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In fact, some varieties of pink poinsettias have become popular fundraisers for breast cancer charities and are now marketed for October events as well as in December for holiday gifts.

Poinsettias – a euphorbia native to Southern California and Mexico – were originally all red. Today’s best pinks were mostly developed in Europe and are now sold under the brand name Princettia.

“Princettia is a brand of interspecific hybrid euphorbias that have traits that improve upon the traditional poinsettia,” says Nursery Management magazine. “In addition to vibrant, unique colors, Princettia plants have a compact habit with branching that creates more flower clusters with smaller bracts, like a centerpiece. They offer extended shelf life at retail and are more heat tolerant and durable in landscapes.”

These pinks range from palest baby pink to vibrant almost-neon hot pink. Barbie would approve.

No matter their color, poinsettias all require the same care to last their longest.

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. They can’t take too much cold or heat, preferring temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees.

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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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