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Q: We have a poinsettia planted in our yard, as you recommended in a past column. The leaves or bracts at the ends of the branches are turning red. How can I cut some of the stems to enjoy the blooms inside?
— Lynn, via email
A: Congratulations! Poinsettias are excellent plants for the landscape on the Treasure Coast. Full sun to partial shade during the day, dark at night and available water when the weather is dry are the best spots to install a poinsettia for the yard.
Poinsettias are also beautiful seasonal houseplants and exceptional flowers for vases, bowls and mixed arrangements. Even though they are long-lasting and exquisite on the holiday table or as part of the decorations, poinsettias are rarely used as cut flowers.
National Poinsettia Day is Dec. 12 as designated by an Act of Congress; the date marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851. While serving as the U. S. Ambassador to Mexico, Poinsett was enchanted by the scarlet red flower. He collected cuttings, sent them back to South Carolina, and subsequently, he is credited with introducing the plant to the U.S. In my opinion, the holidays are not the same without a poinsettia in the house.
Poinsettias are the best-selling flowering potted plants in the U.S. and are grown commercially as a holiday crop in all 50 states. New varieties have been developed to produce plants with long straight stems that hold the foliage well for cut flowers. There is a trick to turn potted blooms into beautiful branches for arrangements.
Any variety of poinsettia can be used as a cut flower. Some varieties bloom early, others mature mid- or late season. Look for signs of a mature flower in plants planted in the landscape or in the few pots purchased purposely for cutting. Mature poinsettia flowers have fully developed, colorful bract around a flower head with several small yellow flowers in the middle. The bloom is past its prime if all the cyathia, the specialized flower cup-like structures, have dropped off and are not the best choice for cutting.
Cut poinsettia stems with a sharp knife or clippers. The cut stems will bleed milky sap. Gloves are a good choice; the sap causes dermatitis in some folks. To stop the flow, plunge the ends of the cut branches into very hot, almost boiling water for one minute. An open flame can also be used to seal the cut. Either way, put the heated stems into cold water immediately. After cooling, arrange as you would any cut flower.
Carol Cloud Bailey is a landscape counselor and horticulturist. Send questions to email@example.com or visit www.yard-doc.com for more information.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Florida gardening: How to cut poinsettias to enjoy the blooms indoors?