Nov 17, 2022
MSU Previews Poinsettias at Open HouseSource: Gary R. Bachman, MSU Extension Service

Although it’s only mid-November, poinsettias will be arriving very soon at garden centers — some may have already arrived — for the holiday season.

In many people’s minds, the traditional poinsettia color is red, but red is not the only color available. (See photo above; Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman).

Today, we can purchase white, pink, maroon, speckled and marbled poinsettias, as well as some unexpected and unusual colors that are not artificial.

To get a little plant physiology straight, the colors we enjoy are not the flowers but rather the modified leaf structures called bracts. The flowers themselves are the small, pea-shaped buds clustered in the center. These are called cyathia.

Colorful poinsettias have marbled leaves. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)

For the past few years, the Coastal Horticulture Research group at the Mississippi State University South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville has conducted trials for growing poinsettias in the deep South. They have also conducted consumer preference trials.

This data is valuable for the greenhouse growers in Mississippi as they plan their growing strategies.

In 2021, we invited the gardening public to our first Poinsettia Open House to view the trials and experience the width and breadth of poinsettia colors in person. Last year, we grew 38 different selections in containers ranging from 4-inch to 12-inch diameter, which are the sizes frequently used for poinsettias.

Visitors were asked to complete a survey with questions ranging from favorite color to how much they would be willing to pay for the plant. Guess what? Red came out on top.

This year, we’re again holding a Poinsettia Open House at Poplarville on Dec. 1, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Poplarville station. The trials this year include 54 separate varieties.

It will be a long drive for some of you to get to south Mississippi, but if you’re able to come, you’ll learn about classic as well as unique poinsettia selections. There will be light refreshments, as if standing amongst hundreds of colorful poinsettias isn’t enough, and visitors can take our survey to let us know what you think.

We’ll even have holiday backdrops available for photos.

Here are top care tips after getting your poinsettia home from the garden center:

Poinsettias need at least six hours of indirect sunlight daily and comfortable room temperatures. If you’re comfortable, then the poinsettias will be happy. Protect them from temperature changes caused by cold or warm drafts, as these cause the leaves and bracts to drop.

Poinsettias are sensitive to wet feet, so don’t over water and don’t let the plant sit in a saucer full of water. To water correctly, remove the decorative sleeve and give the plant warm water in the sink, letting the pot completely drain. Use a protective saucer to protect furniture.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find many of the poinsettias featured at our open house in local stores, but have no fear. There will be lots of gorgeous plants available elsewhere for the holiday season. If you do see a variety you like, ask your local independent garden center if they can possibly have it available next year.

For more information on the Poinsettia Open House click here.