Perhaps the most important part to start with is how do you tell an immature flower from a mature, to an over mature flower? Because, if you’re shopping on December 1 to decorate your house for the holidays, it’s important to know how. The poinsettia color parts, the bracts, will last for several months. But they’re not the true flower. The true flower is in the middle. It’s the central part of the flower. You’ll see these ball-like structures, the cyathia, and that’s the true flower.
This is an immature flower. So, if I’m shopping around the first of December, or perhaps the 10th of December, that’s the stage at which you want to purchase them. However, if it’s later, closer to Christmas, the ideal stage is that after those have opened and all the reproductive parts are apparent, as in this flower. You can see that these are much larger, the male structures are apparent, and the pollen can be seen. This is at the perfect stage if you’re buying it the week before Christmas.
What happens is that as they mature, they’ll shed and drop. And that leaves the center of the flower vacant. It’s a big void. So it’s important that you pick one at the right stage of maturity so that the center remains, and is at the full optimum impact on Christmas day.
But, if we’re shopping early, you’ll want them tight like this. If you’re shopping close to the holiday, you’ll want them more open like this. So that’s the maturity question. Now, size of the flower is not an indicator of maturity, and these are really bracts. It’s important to know this is not the flower. It’s just a modified, colorful leaf that’s there to attract the insects to pollinate the true flower, which is the center part.
This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.