How to Pick the Perfect Poinsettia

by | Dec 4, 2019 | 2 comments

It is holiday time and of course, poinsettias are everywhere. I love poinsettias! But when you are looking at a sea of colorful plants, how do you know which one is the best one to choose? How do you pick the perfect poinsettia?

Choose a color you like

First of all, choose the color you like. There are red, pink, white, and even painted ones in a myriad of colors.

Look at the plant

So other than color, what else are you looking for? First of all, look at the plant. Does it look good? Are the tips of the bracts brown? Are there wilted leaves or broken branches? If so, keep looking.

Check under the pot cover

Next check the pot cover. Is it full of water? If it is, keep moving. If there is water in the cover, you have no idea how long it has been standing in water and it may already have rotting roots. At the very least, check the leaves that are being hidden by the top of the cover. If it has been allowed to dry out, it may have some crispy leaves. That would indicate a plant that hasn’t been well cared for. Again, keep looking.

Check the true flowers

The colored parts of the poinsettia are called bracts, or modified leaves. The true flowers are the small green or yellow parts in the middle of the plant. These should be checked because if they closed and green then the plant will last longer.

Pollen not showing yet

The pollen sacs are still tight with no yellow showing

The pollen sacs in the middle of the white poinsettia below, are much further along than the one above. So consequently, the poinsettia above will last longer than the one below. Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Who cares? They are probably just going to be thrown out after the holidays anyway, right?” The fact is, the holiday season seems to get pushed earlier every year so poinsettias are being purchased sooner and we want them to last until the holidays are over, so we have to buy them as “fresh” as we can. Buying them with lots of pollen showing is like buying a piece of fruit that is too ripe.

Pollen showing in the middle of this white poinsettia

White poinsettia pollen

You can see the pollen in this closer picture

Lots of pollen showing on this white poinsettia

Poinsettia pollen

Poinsettia pollen sacs turning yellow

How long have they been sleeved

Another factor to take into account is the amount of time the poinsettia has been sleeved. That may be hard to determine, but they should be unwrapped as soon as they arrive at the garden center. Leaving them sleeved can damage the foliage and accelerate the aging process.

Poinsettia 'Tapestry" or vareigated poinsettia

Poinsettia ‘Tapestry’, a variegated form

Pink and 'Tapestry' poinsettias

Pink poinsettia and ‘Tapestry’

They like it toasty warm

The last thing to worry about is the temperature outside when buying and transporting your poinsettia. They are tropical plants from Mexico and they do not like temperatures below 50 degrees for even a short time. When you buy a poinsettia, it should be sleeved in a PAPER sleeve of some sort and be completely covered. This, of course, is imperative if it is below 50. Where I live, it most likely is going to be below 50 when it is poinsettia buying time.

Speckled poinsettia

Speckled poinsettia

Poinsettia torture witnessed by me

I was at a large warehouse store today and witnessed poinsettias leaving the store in plastic sleeves that didn’t even cover the entire plant and it was well below 40 degrees. How do you think those poinsettias will look tomorrow? I would think a little worse for the wear. They may have brown edges or even completely wilted leaves. They WERE beautiful poinsettias. Take your plant in its paper sleeve to a warm car and go straight home. Running 10 other errands and leaving it in a freezing car will not bode well for your plant.

Marbled poinsettia

Marbled poinsettias


So to recap- check inside the pot cover, observe the color of the pollen sacs, and cover your plant when bringing it home. Read here for information about caring for your poinsettia once you get it home. Be a smart shopper and you will be able to enjoy your poinsettia long after the season is over. Do you keep your poinsettias or throw them out?



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  1. Cathy Streett

    Thank you for the tips. I usually go to the greenhouse at Cantigny Park each Nov and buy a poinsettia. They are very well cared for – but I’ll look for the things you pointed out and remember to keep it warm on the way home.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Sound good! Keep it warm and evenly moist and all should be good.


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