How to Care for Poinsettias

They hate cold. Really hate it.

Poinsettia is the brilliant Christmas plant that, with a little love, will bloom long after the ho-ho-hos have faded.

And if you want it to re-bloom for next year, we’ve got tips for that, too (but fair warning: that’s a lot harder to do). Here’s how to care for poinsettias during the season (and beyond):

First, Buy a Healthy Poinsettia

Inspect poinsettias carefully before you buy a plant. A healthy plant looks like this:

  • Dark green foliage before color develops.
  • Bracts (colored leaves) completely colored without green perimeters.
  • Lush and filled with leaves, not yellow and sparsely covered.
  • Balanced from all sides.
  • Displayed naked without plastic sleeves that can cause plants to droop. Cover the plant only when transporting in temperatures below 50 degrees.
  • 2.5 times taller than its diameter.

Be Careful Taking It Home (Poinsettias Hate Cold)

Poinsettias originated in Mexico and don’t like the cold, even for a few minutes. So make sure you wrap the plant if temps dip low in your area, and then keep it away from hot and cold drafts, such as heating registers and drafty windows, which can make leaves drop.

Follow These 4 Tips to Care for Poinsettias at Home

  1. Display your poinsettia in indirect light for about 6 hours per day.
  2. High temperatures will shorten the poinsettia’s life. Keep room temperatures at 60 to 70 degrees during the day; around 55 degrees in the evening. You might have to move the plant around to expose it to optimal temperatures, like keeping it in the kitchen by day and in the garage by night.
  3. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. If you keep the plant in foil, puncture the bottom to allow water to drain and prevent root rot. Empty drip trays after watering. Be careful not to over-water, which can cause wilting and leaf loss.
  4. Feed blooming poinsettias every 2 to 3 weeks with a water-soluble plant food; water monthly after blooming.

Follow These Steps to Make It Re-Bloom

Coaxing a poinsettia to re-bloom each year is an exhausting process. Each month from January to December you have to snip or repot; move to the dark or move to the light; water or not water — you’ll get a migraine just thinking about it.

Since a new 6-inch poinsettia costs a ten-spot, you’re better off buying a new crop each year and spending your time and energy on other gardening delights.

But if you’re a waste-not person, here’s a look at what you can do to coax your poinsettia to bloom again next year.

January-May: Give your plant plenty of sun and enough water to stay moist, but not soggy. Fertilize every 2 weeks. In early April, prune to 6-8 inches tall.

June: Repot with fresh soil and move your poinsettia indoors where it can get 6-8 hours of sunlight. Fertilize weekly until early fall. If you put the plant on a patio, give it shade during the hottest part of the day. If you place the pot in a flower garden, lift and turn it weekly so roots don’t grow into the ground and become shocked when you return the plant indoors in September.

Late July: Pinch off the top of the plant and 2-3 leaves on each stem to prevent the poinsettia from getting leggy.

October: Bring the poinsettia indoors when nighttime temperatures fall into the 50s. Place in a sunny window, and water when dry to the touch. Fertilize weekly.

October 1 to Thanksgiving: To force the bracts to color, the plant must be kept in uninterrupted darkness from 5 p.m. to about 8 a.m., and then returned to bright sun for the rest of the day. There should be a 7-10-degree difference between the dark and light environments: optimally, 65-70 degrees at night, and 70-80 degrees in the day. Fertilize weekly.

Thanksgiving: When the bracts begin to color, suspend the dark-light routine, and keep the plant moist and in a sunny spot for 6-8 hours daily. After full color has been achieved (congratulations!), stop fertilizing and move the poinsettia to wherever it will be admired most.

Written By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon, Published: December 12, 2012

Edited for Arizona

Here Are 4 Things You Ought to Know About Solar Christmas Lights

Solar Christmas lights promise easy setup with no electric cords and grid-free festive lighting.

Should you switch? Here are four things about solar Christmas lights to help you decide.

1. Solar Lights Set Up Easy

A string of solar Christmas lights uses a small solar panel for power; there are no extension cords that must be plugged into outlets.

The panel — about the size of a hockey puck — powers rechargeable batteries that illuminate a 25- to 100-bulb string of LED lights.

Panels come with small stakes so you can put them in the ground, where they can take advantage of the sun.

2. They Cost About the Same as LED Lights

Pricing for solar-powered and plug-in LED holiday lights runs neck and neck. A string of 100 miniature lights costs about $10 and up for both solar and LED. Yet solar costs nothing to operate.

3. They’re Durable

They don’t have any filaments that burn out easily, and they’re made of plastic, which doesn’t break as easil as glass.

4. But They May Not Be as Bright as You’d Like

A fully-charged string of lights should glow for a few hours after the sun goes down. But if you don’t get much sun, and with the shorter days, you could see only an hour or so.

By: Alyson McNutt English
Published: December 1, 2011

For more information on Solar powered Christmas Lights: Best Solar Powered Christmas Lights – Top 11 Reviews

A Real Christmas Tree vs an Artificial One: Costs and Cons

They cost about the same in dollars, but a real tree is better than a fake one for the environment.

Live Christmas trees are better for the environment than artificial Christmas trees: They’re renewable and recyclable, unlike that petroleum-derived faux model.

In terms of price there’s not much difference between the real and fake varieties, unless you get really fancy with an artificial one. Depending on where you live and the size and species of tree you buy, the real deal runs about $20 to $150 annually.

You can pick up a basic fake Christmas tree for less than $20 at some big-box retailers. Prices go up from there to as much as $430 for a deluxe, already-lit number. Buy a used artificial tree, and you’ll save — plus have less impact on the environment.

All I Want for Christmas is the Greenest of Trees. What Do I Look For?

Visit a local Christmas tree farm. Christmas tree farmland often can’t be used for other crops, says Brian Clark Howard, an environmental reporter. When the tree farmers plant new trees, the growing young trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon. And tree farms conserve soil — farmers only till the land once every six or eight years. If you buy from a Christmas tree lot, your tree was likely shipped from Oregon or North Carolina, and getting it to you created pollution, Howard says.

Do business with a local Christmas tree farmer who grows organic Christmas trees without pesticides. Whether an organic tree costs more depends on where you live.

Written By: G. M. Filisko
Published: December 10, 2010

5 Surprising Benefits of LED Holiday Lights Beyond Energy Savings

For one thing, they’re less breakable than other lights.

Yes, LED holiday lights save energy. Up to 75% less energy than the old-fashioned kind, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program.

But there are more advantages to LEDs than energy savings. Here are 5 other reasons to switch to LED Christmas lights.

#1 They’re More Durable

They don’t have filaments or glass, so they’re less likely to break or be damaged as you string them up and down.

#2 LED Holiday Lights Last and Last

LED bulbs can keep your season bright for as long as 100,000 hours, says Cathy Choi, president of Moonachie, N.J.-based Bulbrite, which manufactures LED and regular bulbs. That’s substantially longer than the life of your old holiday light strings.

#3 You Can String a BIG Strand of Lights

Safety wise, you shouldn’t connect more than three traditional light strings, but you can connect at least 10 with LEDs and up to 87 in some cases, totaling a whopping 1,500 feet, Choi says. So blow your neighbor’s display away by cocooning your house in lights:

  • You won’t have to buy as many extension cords
  • You can take your holiday lighting display further away from the outlet.

#4 They Reduce the Risk of Fire

They stay cooler than incandescent bulbs, according to Energy Star.

#5 They Now Come in Warmer Hues

Some people stick with their old lights because they don’t like the brighter hue that white LED holiday lights emit. But manufacturers now offer a “warm white” bulb that more closely mimics the glow of an incandescent light. Be sure to read the label to choose a bright or warm white and to ensure what you’re purchasing is Energy Star-certified.

Written By: G. M. Filisko
Published: December 10, 2010

 

How to String Christmas Lights: 9 Tips to Save $$

Christmas lights can be modest displays to show good cheer, or million-bulb light-apaloozas that draw gawkers from near and far.

Here are some tips on how to get the most from — and spend the least on — your holiday display.

You’ll need a partner. And some heavy-duty extension cords.

#1 Safety First

Emergency rooms are filled with homeowners who lose fights with their holiday lights and fall off ladders or suffer electric shocks. To avoid the holiday black and blues, never hang lights solo; instead, work with a partner who holds the ladder. Also, avoid climbing on roofs after rain or snow.

#2 Unpack Carefully

Lights break and glass cuts. So unpack your lights gingerly, looking for and replacing broken bulbs along the way.

#3 Extension Cords Are Your Friends

Splurge on heavy-duty extension cords that are UL-listed for outdoor use. To avoid overloading, only link five strings of lights together before plugging into an extension cord.

#4 LEDs Cost Less to Light

LED Christmas lights use roughly 70% to 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. You can safely connect many more LED light strings than incandescents. Downside: Some think they don’t burn as brightly as incandescent bulbs.

#5 Dismantle Lights Sooner Than Later

Sun, wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down immediately after the holidays. The longer you leave the up, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.

#6 Plan Next Year’s Display on Dec. 26

Shop the after-Christmas sales to get the best prices on lights and blowups that you can proudly display next year. Stock up on your favorite lights so you’ll have spares when you need them (and after they’re discontinued).

#7 Permanent Attachments Save Time

If you know you’ll always hang lights from eaves, install permanent light clips ($13 for 75 clips) that will save you hanging time each year. You’ll get a couple/three years out of the clips before sun eats the plastic.

#8 Find Those Blueprints

Instead of guessing how many light strings you’ll need, or measuring with a tape, dig up your house blueprints or house location drawings (probably with your closing papers) and use those measurements as a guide.

#9 Store Them in a Ball

It sounds counter intuitive, but the best way to store lights is to ball them up. Wrap five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat. Store your light balls in cardboard boxes, rather than in plastic bags: Cardboard absorbs residual moisture and extends the life of your lights.

Written by: Lisa Kaplan Gordon