Pining for poinsettia's color

Garden Q&A

December 29, 2007|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement

I bought a gorgeous poinsettia at Christmastime in 2001. Its leaves were various shades of pink, rather than the traditional red. The plant survived the following year rather well, but I was disappointed when the leaves remained green throughout the year and the holiday season. I was hoping to see them return to the pink colors they were when I bought the plant. I asked a florist if he knew what I needed to do to get the leaves on my poinsettia to turn their original colors again, and he suggested that I consult you.

All colors of poinsettias require specific care and timing for light, darkness, watering and pruning in order for the plants' original display to be re-created. We have detailed information in our free publication HG 30 Holiday Plant Care: Poinsettia.

To keep your poinsettia at its healthy best now, give it as much light as possible and water regularly. Normal room temperatures are fine; the plant may last longer if night temperatures are a little cooler. Do not leave a poinsettia where drafts or major temperature swings will cause leaf drop. With some long-term care and attention, a poinsettia may be carried over into the second year.

Plan to put your poinsettia outside next summer, bring it indoors in fall and begin precise control of its exposure to light and dark.

I purchased the "finch sock" feeding system and have been rewarded with many finches coming to eat the thistle seed. I know this creates a winter dependency for the birds, and for my part, I should keep feeding them, but actually it is becoming a little expensive keeping the sock filled!

You will be relieved to know that birds do not become totally dependent upon bird feeders. Their natural food sources in the wild (such as berries and nuts on trees and shrubs or seeds on any plant) get eaten and are not replaced. Birds are accustomed to this and have evolved to search for food elsewhere when one source is used up. So don't hesitate to feed the birds, even for a short period of time.


After the holidays, cut up your Christmas tree or garlands and use the foliage for winter protection on tender perennials.

Use the minimum amount of salt-melting products on sidewalks and paths to lessen the chance of grass and lawn injury caused by excessive salt levels in the soil. High salt levels will kill grass roots and damage the lawn.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

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