Here’s a gardening trick that works: use poinsettias as fresh cut flowers

Posted by on December 19, 2013

Poinsettia as cut flower

Poinsettia as cut flowerPoinsettia is the classic Christmas plant for the holidays,

but did you know you can use the stems in arrangements with water? Click to Tweet!

This is something I’ve done for years since I like the stems individually better than the plant as a whole (along with its requisite foil)  as part of a vase arrangement paired with evergreens. (Leyland cypress, in particular.) Poinsettia as a vase flower is surprisingly long lasting.

Over the years, I’ve read some conflicting advice about increasing the stem life, such as burning the ends with a match or sinking the ends into a pot of boiling water. I tried this, and I’ve had mixed results,  so I asked my friend and rising horticulture star, Alicain Carlson, Ph.D. Candidate in Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University, what we really need to do to extend the stem life of a poinsettia.

Alicain Carlson says,

 In my experience, it is best to cut the stems from the plant and then recut the ends in a bucket of hot water. Leave them in the hot water until the latex stops seeping out the cut end, just a couple of minutes.  At this point, transfer them to a clean bucket of water of any temperature.

It is important that the stems stop seeping.  I theorize that this works mainly because you’re keeping the latex out of the vase water so it doesn’t clog up the xylem and stop water uptake. Keep the water clean. (And this goes for all flowers.)

I’ve also heard of people searing the stem ends with flames or boiling water, but there is no experimental evidence to prove this improves vase life. Cultivars that have ruffled bracts (like Winter Rose) tend to hold up better than those with smooth. Also, I’ve recently heard of people floating whole poinsettia flowers in water and them lasting over a week. In my experiences, I’ve also found them to do well in floral foam (and even a little better) than in just water.

Thank you Alicain, and I wish you well in your future in horticulture!

Check out my friend, Southern Living’s Steve Bender, The Grumpy Gardener, for tips on keeping indoor holiday plants alive during the winter season.

Helen Yoest


One Response to “Here’s a gardening trick that works: use poinsettias as fresh cut flowers”

  1. MLCH says:

    Interesting article, Helen. As a floral designer, I much prefer poinsettias as a cut flower instead of a potted plant. I do use the “cauterization” method of searing the freshly cut stem over a hot flame to stop the bleeding of the white liquid stops flowing.

    Also, in an effort to decrease the use of Oasis floral foam, the cut stems can be gathered with the Christmas greens for a long vase life. As always, keep your water freshened daily if possible for longest vase life!

    Thanks for the info on this lovely classic!
    Mary Louise

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