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Gardening tips: A quick guide to caring for poinsettias

The red poinsettia is very eye-catching though its colour tends to fade in low winter light so consider pinks or whites

FESTIVE poinsettias can look spectacular at Christmas, but all too often they end up being put in the wrong place – and start wilting before the celebrations have even really started.

Kenneth Freeman, an expert on interior plant welfare and technical director at interior plants specialist Ambius (ambius.co.uk), offers the following tips to help keep your poinsettia perky through the festive season and beyond...

1. Unwrap them immediately

Poinsettias must be unwrapped from their sleeves as soon as you get them indoors.

2. Keep them warm

Poinsettias are indigenous to the warm climate of Mexico and don't do well sitting in cold vehicles or buildings, or being watered with cold water. In fact, this can substantially reduce their lifespan. When positioning your poinsettia, don't place them near cold draughts or near to outside doorways – they prefer warm and light conditions.

3. Don't over-water

While they can consume a lot of water, poinsettias should never be allowed to stand in water. They only require a small amount once every few days.

4. Give them a pick-me-up

While wilted poinsettias may have their lifespan reduced, soaking the rootball with warm water will often cause severely wilted poinsettias to revive. Revival should occur within one hour, so don't chuck out your plants until you have tried this.

5. Choose your poinsettias wisely

White or pink poinsettias will look better for longer display periods (over three weeks). Red ones tend to fade in colour if in low light, and after more than three weeks.

The poinsettia can provide a modest alternative to the Christmas tree, but if this doesn't take your fancy either, then there are other alternatives to choose from. Both the Christmas cactus and hippeastrum, often erroneously called Amaryllis (a bulbous plant), can be found in most supermarkets and garden centres.

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