The poinsettia is the traditional Christmas plant. It is native to Mexico and was introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
In mild climates such as Florida and California, the poinsettia is also grown in the landscape. However, it is not winter-hardy in Oklahoma.
The striking beauty of the poinsettia is found in the showy bracts, which are specialized leaves, surrounding the true yellow flowers. Plants with red bracts are most popular, but plants with yellow, pink, white, and variegated bracts are also available. The newer cultivars of poinsettia, in addition to being very showy, have excellent keeping quality and stronger stems than older cultivars.
The following are a few selection pointers:
• Choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line.
• Choose bracts (modified leaves) that are completely colored.
• Do not purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges.
• Do not choose plants with fallen or yellowed leaves.
• The poinsettia should look full, balanced and attractive from all sides.
• The plant should be 2 ½ times taller than the diameter of the container.
• Choose plants that are not drooping or wilting.
• Do not purchase plants that are displayed in paper or plastic sleeves. Plants held in sleeves will deteriorate quickly.
• Do not purchase plants that have been displayed or crowded close together. Crowding can cause premature bract loss.
• Check the plant's soil. If it's wet and the plant is wilted, this could be an indication of root rot.
• Check the poinsettia's maturity. Look at the true flowers which are located at the base of the colored bracts. If the flowers are green or red-tipped and fresh looking, the bloom will “hold” longer than if yellow pollen is covering the flowers.