[audio:http://news.cals.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/eileen_nelson_poinsettias.mp3|titles=Eileen Nelson all about poinsettias]
Eileen Nelson, Faculty Associate
Department of Horticulture
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
All about poinsettias
3:06 – Total Time
0:07 – Where poinsettias come from
0:35 – Features of poinsettias
1:03 – New trends in poinsettia market
1:30 – Most popular colors
2:04 – Tips for buying poinsettias
2:38 – Care of poinsettia at home
2:56 – Lead out
Care and management of that poinsettia plant for the holidays. We’re visiting today with Eileen Nelson, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.
Sevie Kenyon: Eileen, welcome to our microphone. Eileen, where do the poinsettias come from?
Eileen Nelson: Poinsettias were a plant that was native to Mexico and they can be found growing in the wild in Mexico and southern California. For us around here, it’s hard to imagine, but it can grow to be a ten-foot tall shrub.
Sevie Kenyon: What do [are] some of the distinguishing features of the poinsettias?
Eileen Nelson: I guess when we think of poinsettias in our mind, we see the traditional red flower and then the green at the bottom. But in fact, those green and red are all a type of leaf. They are not the actual flower. And the red is simply for attracting the pollinators that come to the flower and the flower is the little yellow parts at the center.
Sevie Kenyon: What are some of the things that may be new or different in the poinsettia market?
Eileen Nelson: Every season it seems that the growers and the breeders are trying to outdo themselves, coming up with a new color. I know that there are new varieties that are coming on that are a slightly different shade of red, slightly different shade of white. There are some new that are really, truly white. They look snow white, rather then a yellowish white.
Sevie Kenyon: Eileen, what are the most popular colors and varieties?
Eileen Nelson: Well, as much as new colors are always being introduced, red poinsettias are still the favorites. In some studies, 74% prefer the red, 8% of the population prefers white, and 6% prefers pink. They don’t give us any statistics for the ones covered with little sparkles, or that have been sprayed blue. It’s the red poinsettia we remember– we think about–and that’s the one we’re happiest with when we get home.
Sevie Kenyon: Eileen, do you have any tips people should use for acquiring one of these plants?
Eileen Nelson: You want plants with dark, green foliage. It means they’ve been growing well, they’ve been fertilized well, their water’s been kept at optimum levels. You want bracts, or the modified leaves, which are what we would call the red or the pink or the white petals. You want them to be completely colored and you don’t want them to have a green edge on them. If you’re looking at the red and you see shades of green on the edge, you don’t want to buy those. They just haven’t colored up the way they’re supposed to.
Sevie Kenyon: How would you suggest they care for them, once they get them home?
Eileen Nelson: Keep it sleeved and covered, getting it home. But then when you get it home it needs good light, to keep the color up, and you don’t want it overly warm and keep it watered without over-watering it. They’ve been grown and bred to last the five or six weeks of the Christmas season.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting today with Eileen Nelson, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.