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The holidays have arrived, and people will soon be decking the halls and decorating their homes, including adding garland, wreaths, poinsettias and other festive décor to ignite the spirit. West Virginia University experts Mira Danilovich, consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor, WVU Extension Service, and Sven Verlinden, director of plant and soil sciences center and associate professor of horticulture, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, offer tips and guidance on how to keep your holiday décor long-lasting and safe.
Care and safety of poinsettias
“We should get clues about preserving poinsettias in our homes from the place of their origin. They are tropical plants and love a warm, humid environment. Did you know that they can get exposure to the cold just by carrying them from the shop where you purchased them to the car and to your home? Before you venture out with that beautiful and colorful bundle in your arms, make sure you cover it by wrapping it or putting it in a paper bag to protect them during transportation from a shop to a happy home.” – Mira Danilovich, consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor, WVU Extension Service
“Once at home, make sure you remove the decorative wrapping from the container and free any drainage holes. Placing poinsettias into a decorative pot is an option, but just make sure you add about an inch or two of small stones at the bottom since these decorative pots do not have holes. The excess water gathered at the bottom will raise much needed humidity. Poinsettias need to be watered regularly and evenly. Water the plants when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Overwatering or letting the plants’ root sit in the water will ‘drown’ the plant, leading to root rot.” – Mira Danilovich, consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor, WVU Extension Service
“Poinsettias do not like drafty and cold areas in the house. So, putting them close to the sliding door or near cold window are not the best places for them. They prefer temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees, away from heat/hot registers.” – Mira Danilovich, consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor, WVU Extension Service
“If you want the poinsettia to re-bloom, it is a bit involved. It is possible, but it is cumbersome. After Christmas, the plant should be cut back. Once you cut it back, what’s important is that it gets plenty of light – at least 13 or 14 hours of direct light. That can be from incandescent lights, LEDs or fluorescent lights, but you must make sure the days are not too short. And that's how you keep the plant vegetative so it will keep growing without producing flowers. Now in September of the following year, you’ll want the plant to start being exposed to shorter days and the plant will start to initiate flowers again. At that point, it is very important that the plant does not get exposed to light at night. Even five days of inappropriate light will either prevent or trigger the blooming.” – Sven Verlinden, director of plant and soil sciences and associate professor, WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
“One of the questions we sometimes receive about poinsettia is if it's poisonous to humans or to pets. The first thing I want to say is this plant is not poisonous, not from the standpoint that it actually produces poison. It is not edible though. If a human or pet would consume poinsettia leaves or other parts of the plant, they probably will have a little bit of an upset digestive tract. Most vets will treat it as a poisoning even though the pet is not really poisoned in the strict sense of the word poison. And from that standpoint, the poinsettia is a fairly safe plant to have in the home.” – Sven Verlinden, director of plant and soil sciences and associate professor, WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Preserve the lifespan of your wreaths/garland
“There is nothing better than a freshly cut evergreen branches for a wreath on your door or a garland around the windows or fireplace. There is nothing quite like the smell for the holiday season. To keep the fresh smell all season long, you need to consider a few rules. First and foremost, use fresh cut branches, regardless of the evergreen. If you are into really strong, fragrant aroma, nothing beats a fir.” – Mira Danilovich, consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor, WVU Extension Service
“To prevent needle loss and the mess that goes with it, keep your garlands and wreaths away from drafty areas, hot registers or anything that will contribute to needles drying out. Pay attention to decorative lights choices. Use low-heat lights, usually LED, micro or micro mini lights would perform well.” – Mira Danilovich, consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor, WVU Extension Service
West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.
CONTACT: Tara Curtis
WVU Extension Service
WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources & Design
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