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Poinsettia stems make great seasonal statement in a vase

Red is still irresistible, but tireless breeders push the color palette with pink, coral, lemon and white varieties. Textures vary from smooth to ruffled and curled

Plump, potted poinsettias dress endless entry halls, mantels and dining tables each holiday season. A single plant slipped into a decorative basket makes for a quick, beautiful decoration.

But if you don't know where to put a bulky potted plant, grab the scissors. Poinsettia stems make great cut flowers. They'll last up to two weeks if you change the water. Careful, though; they ooze a milky sap when broken or cut, and it can irritate skin. To stop the flow, immediately dip the cut end into simmering water for 10 seconds or hold it over a candle flame.

We found bracts long-lasting when we simply cut stems, removed foliage that would sit below the water line and immediately placed the stems in a vase of cool water. We changed the water when it clouded up. Watch the waterline daily; poinsettias are heavy drinkers.


Another idea: Reserve a few stems for a topiary. Choose a healthy, tall potted plant with a full head of colorful bracts. Or purchase two; this makes a great gift.

Select two or three of the tallest stems. Remove the rest at the soil line, and use them as cut flowers.

Remove the bottom leaves on the potted stems. Gently tie the stems with ribbon.

Display the topiary in an urn, cachepot or spray-painted clay pot. (Spray the pot in an old cardboard box. It will dry in well under a minute.)

Top it with a piece of misted sheet moss. Add accents such as trailing ivy, berry sprigs, pine cones or small apples.

A potted pairing

Can't bear to cut up your poinsettia? It'll pair nicely with the tiny white blooms of an unlikely cousin, "Diamond Frost." There's little family resemblance, but both plants belong to the Euphorbia genus.

For a nice display, tuck small pots or vases of Diamond Frost, which has tiny white blooms, around a taller poinsettia in an urn or cachepot.

The poinsettia's colorful bracts, or modified leaves, get all the attention, but their true blooms small, yellow/green and buttonlike sit at the bracts' centers, nearly forgotten.

Red is still irresistible, but tireless breeders push the color palette with pink, coral, lemon and white varieties. Some have marbled or color-splashed bracts. Textures vary from smooth to ruffled "Winter Rose" and curled 'Carousel.'

Whatever variety you like, choose a plant with tight flowers; thoroughly colored, expanded bracts; and dark-green foliage to the bottom of the plant. Avoid droopy plants.