Fri | Dec 9, 2016

'Tis the season ... for poinsettias

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photos by Brian McCalla/Freelance Photographer
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Keisha Hill, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Poinsettias are traditionally the quintessential Yuletide flowering plants that hold a nostalgic place in many hearts throughout the Christmas season. Grown for their brightly coloured bracts (the part of a plant that may resemble a leaf or a petal), poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America and the Caribbean.

The coloured bracts are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colours, but are actually coloured leaves. The actual flowers of a poinsettia are the yellow button-like buds in the centre of the brilliantly coloured bracts.

While the poinsettia provide a radiant backdrop during this season, many persons are curious about its colours. According to Geoffrey Shields - of Shields & Shields, a leading pioneer in the development of Jamaica's Horticultural Industry - the colours of the bracts are created through photoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness 12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row to change colour.

"Poinsettias flower naturally at Christmas because they need long nights to flower and short nights to grow. None will flower if they do not get the long-night treatment," Shields said.

It can be quite a tedious process if you are really not into gardening because at the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest colour. They should be kept in temperatures from 60ºF to 70ºF in an area free from either hot or cold drafts. The soil can dry out slightly between watering, but avoid overwatering as the roots could rot if these flowers sit in puddles of water.

RED MOST POPULAR

According to Shields, the coloured poinsettias represent 10 per cent of actual sales, while the red colour still represents 90 per cent of production and sales. Shields indicated that numerous other breeds have come on the scene, so there are many in terms of variety and colours.

"Poinsettias come in a wide range of colours, including solid colours like red, maroon, red-purple, white, peach, and pale yellow. Many other varieties include speckled, striped, or splotched colours. No matter what colours you choose, however, there are many creative and attractive ways to decorate with poinsettias," Shields said.

The plants typically reach a height of 0.6-4 metres (2ft 0in-13ft 1in). The plant bears dark-green dentate (teeth-like or serrated) leaves that measure 7-16 centimetres (2.8-6.3 in) in length.

There are many ways to decorate with these beautiful plants, and with a bit of creativity, poinsettias can be part of all your holiday adornments. To keep the blooms of both the flowers and bracts fresh and strong, choose plants that also have abundant green leaves at the base and where no pollen is falling from the flowers. Swap a poinsettia's standard plastic pot for a basket lined with moss. You can hang it inside or out for a unique Christmas display.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com