Christmas is coming so time to perk up your poinsettia

Decorative Christmas Poinsettia

Decorative Christmas Poinsettia

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They are the symbol of Christmas, their traditional red bracts bringing festive cheer to the home - and now Poinsettias come in a range of colours, including light pinks and creams, which would complement more subtle decor.

Some six million plants are sold in the UK in just three weeks in the run-up to Christmas Day, with 80% snapped up in the final shopping weekend, according to grower group the British Protected Ornamentals Association.

Caroline Marshall-Foster, editor of The Florist magazine, suggests an alternative way of decorating with poinsettia is to arrange a row of them in simple copper-coloured pots along the mantelpiece or the windowsill, or to dot a few potted poinsettias among lush green garlands of pine and spruce.

Celebrity florist Larry Walshe says that using metallic-coloured containers can instantly add a hint of Christmas luxury to your poinsettia. “A bit of sparkle makes Christmas. Accessorise your arrangement with gold-leafed candles and glassware and you have the perfect festive table decoration.”

Yet so often poinsettias wilt before the Christmas guests start arriving. So, how do you keep them going?

1. Make sure you buy a healthy plant whose roots are not spilling out through the base of the pot. Check where it is located when you buy it because plants that have been stood outdoors a long time may fail. Unwrap them as soon as you get them home.

2. Place them in a light spot, but not in direct sunlight. If direct sunlight hits the plant, reposition it. Poinsettias should be kept warm, ideally between 13-22C. Don’t place them in draughts and avoid cool rooms.

3. The most common cause of failure is over-watering. Let the upper half of the compost become dry before watering thoroughly. This may mean letting the water drain away and then watering it again. Don’t let them stand in water.

4. Mist the leaves frequently as poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima), which are native to Mexico and Central America, need moist air.

5. If your poinsettia starts to wilt and is as dry as a bone, soak the rootball in warm water, which may revive it.

As well as the traditional red varieties, you can also buy poinsettias in pink and white or with lighter green leaves.

Try the stunning white Princettia ‘Pure White’, a new addition to the Thomson & Morgan range (£14.99, www.thompson-morgan.com) or the popular cream type ‘Regina’.

If poinsettias just don’t take your fancy and you’d like to try something new, alternatives include the Christmas cactus, hippeastrum and orchid. Two new orchids, Phalaenopsis Purple Princess - a dainty type with two to three flower spikes which produce a spray of 3-4cm mauve flowers - and Phalaenopsis ‘Kleopatra 4’ - which has cream flowers with intensely deep purple spots - have recently received the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

:: For more information on poinsettias, visit www.christmas-star.info