published Saturday, November 24th, 2012

5 tips: On Reaching beyond red poinsettias

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    Apricot poinsettias are available this season at The Barn Nursery.

Though red is the color most associated with poinsettias, other shades abound.

"There are lots of fun colors," says Sara Melton, general manager of The Barn Nursery.

"Take a trip out of the comfort zone and give Ice Crystals or Strawberries and Cream a try," she says.

Ice Crystals are deep rose with creamy centers, and Strawberries and Cream are oak-shaped in shades of bright pink and cream.

"Marco Polo is a soft salmon," she says. "Try mixing Breathless White Euphorbia in a basket with poinsettias. The airy bright white flowers look great with reds and pinks."

And, contrary to popular belief, poinsettias aren't poisonous, Melton says.

"They might cause mild irritation to the mouth or stomach, but they aren't going to seriously harm pets or small children. Some people are allergic to poinsettia sap, just like some people are allergic to strawberries or peanuts, but they are not poisonous. In fact, poinsettias can [remove] indoor pollutants from the air."

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America, where they grow to be large shrubs or small trees, Melton says.

"They naturally get colorful when the days are shortest. Franciscan friars in Mexico started using them in Christmas celebrations as early as the 17th century, and they were first brought to the United States in 1825."

Melton offers the following tips on caring for poinsettias.

Five Tips

1 Watch out for temperature. Poinsettias can be damaged by temperatures below 50 degrees and are happiest between 65 and 75. Buy your poinsettias from a warm store or greenhouse, not an outdoor display. Don't leave them in the car on a cold day if you're going to the mall for the afternoon.

2 Technically, the colorful part of the poinsettia is called the bract. The flowers are actually the small yellow round things in the center of each leaf bunch. For the freshest plants, look for flowers that are closed tight or just barely opened.

3 Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch, but never let a poinsettia sit in water.

4 Keep away from cold drafts and heating vents. Poinsettias are generally easy to keep, but the delicate bracts can turn brown on the edges if exposed to a hot or cold draft.

5 Poinsettias make an excellent gift. Whether you're buying for a teacher, a hostess gift, or your boss, poinsettias are a gift for any budget or style. You can put a small one in a cute ceramic pot or basket or have a large one wrapped in foil with a Christmas bow. With more than a dozen varieties available this year, there is a color for every personality and taste.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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