University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Caring for Poinsettias and Christmas Trees

December 4, 1997

In just 3 short weeks, it will be Christmas. Holiday traditions in homes and offices often include poinsettias and Christmas trees. Here's my annual column on how to keep these traditional favorites fresh and festive for the holiday season.

For festive Poinsettias, start by purchasing fresh, healthy plants that have been cared for properly at the point of purchase. Probably the biggest enemy of poinsettias in homes and offices is fluctuating temperatures. Keep plants out of warm drafts, such as from heat ducts or radiators, and away from cold drafts of entrances. An optimum temperature range would be 60 to 68, temperatures above 75 can cause decline. Another related problem is excessively dry air.

Poinsettias commonly face overwatering, which will kill the roots. Roots of poinsettias, along with all other plants, need to have air. Don't overwater poinsettias; wait until the soil surface begins to dry slightly before watering. Don't let it completely dry out and become hard, however. Either remove foil wraps from the pot or place holes in it so water can escape.

Finally, try to place poinsettias near a bright window, but not in direct sunlight. Move it at night if a cold draft is likely to occur.

For many years, the poinsettia was considered to be poisonous. Extensive tests have proven this to be false. However, as with most plants, a child or pet could still have stomach distress if they were to eat poinsettias.

Purchasing a fresh tree is critical when dealing with live trees. Cut your own tree and you are assured freshness. When purchasing trees off the retail lot, avoid those dropping lots of needles easily. Once the tree is home and ready to set up, cut off an inch or so from the bottom of the trunk, place the tree into the stand, and fill the stand with water immediately. Never let the water level go below the cut surface on the bottom of the trunk.

What's best to put in the stand to keep trees fresh longer? The answer...plain water. Check the level frequently and add more as needed. You don't need to add anything else. Another very important point is to locate trees away from heat sources and be sure all lights are in good working condition.


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