Susan Frakes has been experimenting with container gardening for 10 years. She is a certified horticulturist and lectures on the topic of container gardening.

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Poinsettia Combinations
by Susan Frakes       #Holiday: Christmas

This large arrangement holds seven 4-inch plants. The dumb cane (Dieffenbachia spp.) gives height, along with the Norfolk Island pine. The Diamond Frost euphorbia adds the look of dainty white snowflakes. The variegated ivy hangs over the edge of the 14-inch container.

Poinsettias have decorated homes for many years. A single poinsettia can be an awesome sight sitting alone on a table, showing off its striking color, or colors. And their colors are astonishing – from various shades of red, pink, purple, to white or multi-colors. With names such as Monet Early (‘PER2009’), Jingle Bells (‘PER 2110’), ‘Prestige’, ‘Shimmer’, Maren (‘Beckmanns Altrosa’) and ‘Luv U Pink’, there are over 100 varieties of poinsettias. So why combine poinsettias with other plants? Plant combinations take you beyond the ordinary to extraordinary! I enjoy creating combinations that scream “Look at me!” Garden centers have made it easy to do this by having poinsettias in all sizes from teeny tiny to very large ones. The selection of foliage plants to complement the poinsettias also come in various sizes.

The first step is to select your container. The container can be anything that holds enough potting mix to accommodate the number of plants you want to use. To create a tabletop arrangement, you may choose a 10-inch bowl. A bowl of that size would accommodate a 5-inch poinsettia with room for other plants or two 4-inch poinsettias with less room for other plants. The nice thing about having so many sizes of poinsettias to choose from is that you can make a combo in just about anything – from a small ornate container, such as a sleigh, to a huge combo in a ceramic pot. Tabletop urns can transform arrangements into conversation pieces. I am partial to using plastic inserts that I can drop into my decorative container. They come in various sizes as well.

This stunning combination shows off a smaller variety of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Tapestry’). It is surrounded by a dark-leaf peperomia (Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’) and a delicate fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’). The sparkle of tiny white flowers come from Diamond Frost euphorbia (E. hypericifolia ‘Inneuphe’).

For a beautiful display, surround a Norfolk Island pine with red and white poinsettias and add a striking trailing pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘NJoy’).

Drainage is important for the health of your combination. Never leave your container in standing water. If you are using a non-draining container, water lightly and carefully. I use a small watering can with a small spout. This makes it easy to control the direction and amount of water. Your plants’ roots need air along with water.

The potting mix you use should be a soilless mix. It is important to use a medium that is light and fluffy. It helps with drainage.

Be careful and protect the surface where you place your container. A non-draining pot will still damage the surface where it sits. I use surface protectors such as cork with plastic or coasters under my containers. They are thin and not noticeable.

The basic principles for making indoor arrangements are the same as outdoor arrangements. The difference is the plants you use. For some height in my outdoor container, I like to use Sky Pencil holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’). Inside, I would use a Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla).

There are many foliage plants that you can use to pull out the color of your poinsettia. A soft look could be achieved with the addition of ferns. Dracaena lends a bolder style.

These white poinsettias stand out more with the addition of the variegated rubber tree (Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’). Tucked in around the poinsettias are small 3-inch containers of asparagus ferns. Two 4-inch autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) are added for more texture.

This festive tin is planted with red and white poinsettias. The Norfolk Island pine gives height to the arrangement. The chartreuse color of the spikemoss (Selaginella kraussiana ‘Gold Tips’) adds interest.

I used coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) a lot last year in my combinations and was very pleased with how they performed indoors. Coleus colors vary from lime green to vibrant red. New varieties are entering the market every spring. I take cuttings of my summer coleus plants and have them to use indoors with my poinsettias. Hopefully, you will find coleus displayed with poinsettias this year. Their decorative foliage adds more interest and creativity. It pulls the color of the poinsettia out even more.

Every holiday season I pull out my festive baskets and create arrangements in them. Some are given away as gifts, while some decorate my home. Placing a drip pan in the bottom of the basket helps the basket last longer and keeps it tidier. I like using a variety of small plants and depending on my basket size, I usually use three different plants. The Norfolk Island pine is one of my favorites. It can be decorated with tiny ornaments or bows. It stands tall while my small poinsettias surround it. Tuck in a small container of ivy to soften the edges. A small African violet (Saintpaulia spp.) can add some color also. Cover the soil with moss for a nice finished look. Keeping plants in their original containers allows you to change it up easily or take it apart after the holidays. Just remove the moss to water the pots individually.

Grouping plants together is another way to create poinsettia arrangements. Clustering is another name for it. With the help of plant stands, you can elevate plants and surround them with plants placed below. Place a tall dracaena on a plant stand and put a large poinsettia at the base. It will hide the plant stand. Tuck in a small container of ivy next to the poinsettia. The pots can be covered with foil or placed in decorated containers. Remember to take the foil off to water.

Poinsettia combinations go beyond the ordinary and give a beautiful plant a whole new exciting look. It can be a small arrangement or one on a grander level.

This year, when you pick out your poinsettia, look around for something exciting to go with it. You will be surprised how a plant that has been around for a very long time can take on a whole new look.

Poinsettia Partners

Try these exciting foliage plants with your poinsettias:

Neon pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum)

Pilea (Pilea mollis ‘Moon Valley’)

Fittonia (Fittonia argyroneura ‘Mini White’)

Silver lace fern (Pteris ensiformis ‘Evergemiensis’)

From State-by-State Gardening November/December 2013.
Photo credits: Neon photos by Quinn Dombrowski. Pilea by Nagarazoku. Silver lace fern by Forest & Kim Starr. All poinsettia photos by Susan Frakes.


Posted: 12/18/15   RSS | Print


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