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The San Miguel Basin Extension office provides assistance and programs for citizens in five main areas: 4-H/Youth Development, Ag/Local Food, Gardening, Natural Resources and Home, Family & Health.

Horticulture-Gardening   arrow

Colorado Master Gardener Program

Growing and caring for poinsettias

  • Quick facts
  • Poinsettias bloom when the days get shorter.
  • The colorful “flowers” of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called “bracts.”
  • Poinsettias grow well in moist soil and temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees F.
  • They can be grown outdoors during summer.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous, but the sap may cause dermatitis.
Pink leaves of a poinsettia plant
Bracts are the leaves of poinsettia that change color depending on light exposure.

Native to Mexico, poinsettias are in the Euphorbia family and are a popular holiday plant because of their colorful bracts (leaves). There is also a species that is used as a cut flower. They are most commonly used for decorating during the winter holidays, but are also attractive as green plants throughout the year.

Poinsettias change color in response to shorter winter days. Poinsettia flowers are actually made up of the bracts, which look like petals, and the tiny yellow flowers in the center, called cyathia. The colorful bracts attract insects to the flowers and will drop after pollination.

Poinsettias are not harmful to animal or human health. But they should not be eaten.

  • The sticky white sap can cause a skin rash, so gloves are recommended when working with these plants.
  • Avoid contact with eyes and mouth.
  • Wash tools well after use as the sap can make tools sticky.

Poinsettias come in many colors

You can find poinsettias around the holidays to fit into almost any decorative scheme. They range from creamy white to pink to the traditional bright red. Some varieties have bracts with patterns in red and white, pink and white, or green and white and even bright orange.

Flower forms vary as well with some looking similar to a rose. You will also find unusually colored poinsettias such as blue or purple in garden centers. These are cream-colored varieties that are spray painted. They are sometimes sprinkled with glitter.

Growing poinsettias

A collage of four images with poinsettia plants of different colors (red, striped red, blue, red and pink)

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, horticulture

PlantTalk 2204 – Drought Cycles in Colorado   arrow

You can’t always count on unlimited water at the tap. If you look at the history of the state, you’ll see that drought is a regular visitor to Colorado. In the 1900’s alone, four prolonged dry spells occurred. There was one in the 1910s. Another, in the 1930s, caused the infamous dust-bowl period. The second worst drought on record occurred in the mid-1950s. A series of hot, dry summers following a period of scant mountain snowpack created water shortages. The fourth drought hit parts of Colorado in the late 1970’s. In this century, the most severe drought since 1723 hit the state in 2002. Prior to the 1700’s, researchers looking at tree ring records have found evidence of even more severe droughts, some lasting many years.

It is not a question of if, but when, the next water crisis will hit Colorado. What can you do to prepare for the inevitable dry face of Mother Nature? Landscapes will be one of the first things affected by water shortages. Landscapes that require high water input may fall victim to periods with limited water availability. Do something now to minimize the impact of future droughts. Manage existing irrigation with an eye to improving water efficiency.  Many new irrigation products incorporate smart water technology.  Design and plant landscapes using drought-resistant trees, shrubs, and perennials that can withstand extended dry periods. Group plants according to water needs. Create practical turf areas for play, or recreation.  Use mulch in beds to conserve water, and use appropriate amendments for your soil.  You’ll be more in tune with living in the West by following these sustainable, water-wise ideas.

For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).

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