Tips on Buying Poinsettias

Whatever color or form you select, you can tell if you're getting a healthy poinsettia by following these guidelines offered by the Poinsettia Growers Assn.:

* Look for a plant that is balanced in proportion to the container size. The plant should be 2 1/2 times larger than the pot size.

An 18-inch will appear too tall and leggy in a 4-inch pot, but will be properly proportioned in a 6-inch pot. When choosing a 4-inch pot plant, look for height under 12 inches. For a 6-inch pot, select a plant 15 to 18 inches high.

* Select plants with fully mature, thoroughly colored and expanded bracts. Avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges. Make sure the smaller bracts surrounding the cyathia are fully colored and lying horizontal. If they aren't fully colored, the plant will quickly lose its color.

* Beware of plastic or mesh sleeves. Although protective sleeves are used for shipping, plants kept in sleeves for a prolonged period can develop epinasty, characterized by a wilting or drooping of leaves and bracts.

* Look for abundant, dark green foliage that should be dense and plentiful to soil level. Leaves should be free of discoloration.

* Test the plant's soil by probing with a finger. Avoid waterlogged plants, particularly if the plant looks wilted. This could be a sign of irreversible root rot.

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