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POV: Pointers for your poinsettia

The writer is a horticulturist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County.

The holidays will soon be here and the stores will be flush with decorations galore — including holiday plants.

For many of us, the holidays would not be the same without the traditional plants of the season such as amaryllis, Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus and of course, the queen herself, the poinsettia. Years ago poinsettias could only be found at florist shops but eventually nurseries and garden centers began to sell these beauties as hybridizers launched many new color choices and growers could offer other styles of plants such as hanging baskets and tree forms.

The newer generations of poinsettias can be light red or dark red with green leaves or very dark green leaves; they can be several shades of pink or salmon, traditional white or speckled and splotched. There is even a plum colored poinsettia! In short, there is something for every taste and decorating style. With so much plant availability, a few pointers are in order.

It will be common to see poinsettias for sale in the grocery store, the big box stores and many other retailers who may or may not have any staff designated for the care of the plants, so be wary and keep these points in mind when choosing poinsettia plants:

• Choose plants that look healthy and are not droopy or wilted. They should be full, balanced and good looking from all sides.

• Bracts (modified leaves) should be well colored with no green showing and the true flower (the yellow center or cyathia) should not be shedding pollen, as that indicates a plant past its prime.

• Look at how the plants are displayed. They should not be crowded or touching, standing in water or sleeved before purchase time.

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