Poinsettias say it all during the holidays

More than 50 million Americans will purchase a poinsettia plant this holiday season.

More than 50 million Americans will purchase a poinsettia plant this holiday season.

Besides their role as traditional Christ-mas decorations, poinsettias can serve as tokens of goodwill, friendship and joy during the holiday season and beyond.

More than 50 million Americans will pur-chase a poinsettia plant during this holiday season.

While 75 percent prefer the familiar red version, there currently are more than 100 varieties. White, pink, yellow, even variegated poinsettias are gaining popularity.

The newest poinsettias cultivated include “Plum Pudding” and “Avante Garde” varieties.

Named after Joel Poinsett, who introduced this indigenous Mexican plant to the United States during the 1800s while he served as the nation’s U.S. ambassador, poinsettias have become America’s best-selling potted plant.

More than 85 percent of all potted plants sold annually are poinsettias.

Here are some care and handling tips for your own holiday classic from poinsettia experts:

• When purchasing your plant, select a poinsettia with dark green foliage, strong, stiff stems and completely colored flowers. Make sure your plant has no fallen or yellow leaves and that it is fully balanced and attractive from all sides.

• Poinsettias thrive on bright, sunny natural daylight. Place your plant in indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day. Keep your room temperature in the 68- to 70-degree range. Do not place your plant near drafts, heating vents or appliances.

• Water the plant when the soil surface feels dry to a light touch. It’s very important not to let the plant sit in standing water.

• It is not necessary to fertilize poinsettias when they are in bloom. Afterward, a balanced, all-purpose household plant fertilizer can help maintain the rich, green foliage color and promote new growth.

• Do not place your poinsettia outside because it is sensitive to chilling temperatures.