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cut poinsettia

Poinsettia stem arranged in moss ball. 

Poinsettia isn’t the first flower that comes to mind as a cut flower. But why not harvest a stem or two from your potted poinsettia to create a pretty, seasonal display.

Southern Living suggests arranging stems in trifle bowls and stands to create a centerpiece. Fill bottoms with cranberries or florist gems and water and arrange poinsettia stems. Or place single stems in colored bottles or vases on a window sill. Tuck stems into arrangements with other flowers such as roses and evergreens.

Cut bract stems — the colored leaves — to the base of the plant. Strip off lower leaves. Place stems in water-filled container. There’s debate over hot vs. cold water; I settle for tepid. Let stems sit for 30 minutes. This reduces sap that oozes out of the cut stem. After 30 minutes, remove stems, pour out water and rinse container, then refill with water and stems.

Some people prefer to sear the stem tip over a candle flame.

Keep the water clean. You can use florist’s flower food in the vase to extend the display, or make a mixture of your own. You’ll find recipes online by searching DIY cut flower food.

Here’s how to choose and care for a poinsettia:

1. Look for foliage down to the soil line, stiff stems, colored bracts and fullness from all sides. Soil should be moist, not wet.

2. No wilting, drooping, breakage. Avoid plants displayed in paper, mesh or plastic sleeves or plants crowded together which can cause premature bract loss due to reduced air flow. Avoid plants displayed near an entrance or heating/cooling source. Temperature fluctuations can cause bract loss.

3. Protect the plant from cold winds and temperatures below 50 F. Make it the last thing you purchase on a shopping trip so it doesn’t sit in a cold car. A florist will insert the poinsettia into a sleeve for transporting. Or ask for a large bag to cover the plant without breaking stems or damaging bracts. Unwrap or uncover immediately when you arrive home.

4. A poinsettia needs indirect light for at least six hours daily and room temperatures between 68 and 70 F. Avoid displaying the plant near an outside door, cold window or heat sources such as vents, fireplaces, etc.

5. Water when the soil feels dry. Lift the pot; if it feels light, the plant needs watering. Remove it from the cache pot or foil paper before watering. Don’t water the bracts; water at the base of the plant and allow the water to drain completely. Don’t let the plant sit in water. Do not fertilize when a poinsettia is in bloom.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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