Easy Ways With Poinsettias

Plant combinations help put this flower's best face forward.
Ellen Riley

Poinsettias are an upstanding holiday tradition, with colorful blooms held high on arrow-straight stems. Wrapped in bright foil and flashy bows, they are a challenge to incorporate into your home. They also habitually drop leaves--usually, all of them--when the soil becomes dry. The result is fabulous flowers with naked knees.

Here is an easy approach to showcase this flower to its best advantage and give your seasonal decorating a boost. Combine assorted houseplants with a poinsettia in a pretty pot, and you'll have an arrangement that will help you celebrate into the New Year.

Give your holiday collection a fresh look with an imaginative container. You may have the perfect pot around the house already. A tiny stone birdbath can function as a centerpiece for petite poinsettias, and an old wooden toolbox can do double duty on a tabletop. A galvanized or brass tub will hold large plants and make a big statement in a prominent place.

Think Big
For a sizable display, choose a container to hold a 6- or 8-inch potted poinsettia, along with several other similarly sized plants. Line the bottom of the container with foil or plastic, and provide saucers for added moisture protection.

Place the poinsettia as the focal point, and add ferns with soft, graceful foliage to surround its lanky stems. Asparagus, Dallas, and table ferns ( Pteris sp.) are good options. Drape a few fronds over the edge to soften the sides. Give short plants a boost: Put these height-impaired additions on upside-down empty clay pots inside the container.

Add more color and interest with decorative foliage. In our arrangement, pink fittonia mirrors the poinsettia's color and adds broad-leaved texture to balance the frilly ferns. Plants such as calathea and dracaena have leaves that match or complement many poinsettia shades.

Place your large arrangement on the floor in a comfortable seating area or on a fireplace hearth. For a grand, colorful welcome, position it on a foyer table to greet arriving holiday guests.

Smaller Scale
Use the same arrangement approach with poinsettias in 3- or 4-inch pots. Maidenhair fern, variegated ivy, dracaena, peace lily, and fittonia all make good companions. Combine lacy and broad-leaved foliage for good textural balance, and always choose a draping plant, such as ivy, to cascade over the side.

Add blooming houseplants that work with your poinsettia's color. Dark purple and blue African violets complement most pastel poinsettias, and white kalanchoe adds sparkle to red holiday flowers. Paperwhites, jewel-toned cyclamen, and miniature azaleas offer vivid options.

The More the Better
Snuggle foliage and flowers closely to make your arrangement lush and full. If this is difficult with plants in their original containers, the solution is simple: Place each plant, minus the pot, in a plastic sandwich bag. Without rigid sides, soil can be compressed to allow more plants into the mix. The bags also retain moisture, so roots dry out slowly and require less attention. Tip: When plants look dry, use a kitchen baster to drip a small amount of water into each bag.

Silvery Spanish moss is a lovely finishing touch with pastel poinsettias, and green sheet moss makes a rich addition to red ones. Drape it over the edges for a fluid feel. The moss will tie together all the colors and textures.