Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources


You are here: Home / Division News / DASNR Resource Centers / Holidays & Special Occasions / Decorations & Holiday Special / Add a splash of holiday color with poinsettias

Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Add a splash of holiday color with poinsettias

For many people, once the Thanksgiving dishes are washed and the leftover turkey and dressing safely are safely stored in the refrigerator, it is time to break out the Christmas decorations.

Lights, ornaments, garland and the light-up Christmas village are all brought out of storage in preparation for transforming the home for the holidays.

One quick and easy way to add a flair of festiveness to the holiday décor is to bring in a few poinsettias, said Mike Schnelle, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension floriculture specialist.

“Most people are very familiar with the various shades of red poinsettias they find during the holidays. In fact, when the plant made its first appearance in the United States, red was the only color option,” Schnelle said. “Today, however, many new varieties have been developed that are now available in a variety of colors, as well as marbled bracts and variegated foliage. These color varieties should blend well with the color scheme of your holiday decorations.”

When shopping for the perfect plant, select the one with the most blooms. Look for dark green plants and foliage from the pot’s rim up to the showy bracts. The bracts should be well expanded and colorful. In addition, the plant should not show any signs of wilting, which may be an indication of root rot or chilling injury. To ensure maximum longevity, consumers should purchase their poinsettias from a business that specializes in greenhouse plants.

Once the perfect poinsettias have been chosen, it is important to take care in transporting them home. Poinsettias are very sensitive to extreme temperatures, so be sure to ask for a plant sleeve if the outdoor temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. An unprotected poinsettia exposed to freezing temperatures, even for just a short walk to the car, will wilt and begin to drop its leaves very quickly.

Schnelle said once you have arrived at your destination, place the plant in a location with bright, natural light.

“Don’t place them in direct sunlight because this will cause the bracts to fade. Ideally, the indoor temperature should be about 70 degrees,” he said. “Try to avoid placing your poinsettias in areas that are exposed to hot drafts such as heat from appliances, radiators, fireplaces or furnace ducts. Cold drafts from windows and doors also should be avoided. A nice, constant temperature of about 70 degrees is best.”

Proper watering is essential in order to keep the poinsettia healthy. Many commercial growers use a soilless mix. This mix is much lighter weight than a soil-based potting mix. The best indicator of the plant needing water is to pick up the pot and judge the weight. If it is lightweight and the potting mix feels dry to the touch, a thorough watering is needed.

A good watering method Schnelle recommends is to remove the decorative wrap from the pot, then set the pot directly in a sink and water until water drains from the holes in the bottom of the pot. Allow the excess water to drain from the pot before returning the plant to the decorative wrap.

“It’s important to know poinsettias are very susceptible to root rot,” Schnelle said. “That’s why excess water should be given time to drain off before returning the plant to the decorative wrap. The plant’s roots will rot if allowed to sit in standing water.”

Try to fertilize the poinsettia on a weekly basis with a half-strength liquid houseplant fertilizer. You also can use a slow-release fertilizer when you first bring the plant home.

One old wives’ tale that has been around for years is that poinsettias are poisonous to people. This is not true, although the sap from the plant can cause some minor skin irritation to some individuals.

“However, we do recommend you keep them out of reach of young children,” he said. “Poinsettias add such a festive look to holiday decorations, and with proper care, consumers are sure to enjoy them throughout the holiday season and beyond.”


Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078