Make A Living Centrepiece

A Christmas classic, poinsettias make great living centrepieces, and the traditional red and green variety is a popular choice.

But this plant also comes in a range of other colours, including white, pink, purple, orange and yellow, which can also make lovely seasonal decorations.

A perennial shrub, poinsettias can grow up to about 4m when they are planted out in the garden.

What look like colourful petals are actually modified leaves, or bracts. The flowers are the tiny white to yellow blooms that are massed together in the centre of each leaf or bract cluster.

Originating from Mexico, the most common poinsettia is the single red variety, Euphorbia pulcherrima, but some cultivars have double red bracts.

Cuttings from summer and winter prunings can be used to propagate new plants to grow indoors. Take 300mm stem cuttings, dip the ends in water and insert into potting mix. Keep moist for a few weeks until they take root.

Colour indoors

Poinsettias have to be forced into putting on a display of colour out of season in the Southern Hemisphere.

To get the bracts to change colour by Christmas, they are kept in the dark for at least 14 hours a day from mid spring, usually between 5pm and 8am.

Enjoy them as house plants all year round, but give them a sunny north-facing position or bright filtered light in temperatures of about 21°C.

TIP Stand the stems of cut flowers in hot water to thicken the sticky sap.

Pick up a colour

Poinsettias come in a variety of different colours in addition to the traditional red and green. Choose a cultivar that suits your decorating scheme.

apricot poinsettia, handyman magazine,
Apricot coloured poinsettias make for a beautiful neutral centrepiece

citrus poinsettias, handyman magazine,
Use citrus poinsettias for a centrepiece with classic shades of green

pink poinsettias, handyman magazine,
Pink poinsettias are a great choice for centrepieces

marbled poinsettias, handyman magazine,
For shades of green, white and pink opt for marbled poinsettias

Classic colour

Bring life to the lunch or dinner table with a centrepiece of summer blooms, or create your own floral arrangements to give as gifts this year.

With their white, trumpet-shaped blooms on long stems, Christmas lilies (Lilium longiflorum) make excellent cut flowers at this time of year.

Also known as November lilies, these plants bloom from late spring throughout summer, depending on the climate zone.

As well as the classic white shade, there are hundreds of lilium hybrids available in a range of flower forms and colours that are an effective addition to mixed arrangements.

To make up a Christmas bouquet to use as a table centrepiece or to give as a present, combine liliums with flowers such as orchids, roses, anthuriums and geraniums, with evergreen foliage mixed in.

Liliums can be bought potted during summer and kept in their containers or planted in the garden.

The time to plant the bulbs is late autumn and winter, so plan ahead for next year’s display.

They like well-drained soil in a position with morning sun. Water well in summer and feed regularly.

Making cut flowers last

Prepare them well and cut flowers can last two weeks or more in a vase.

CUT about 25-50mm off the stems on a 45° angle using clean, sharp scissors or a knife.

ADD clean water and flower food to the vase, then remove any leaves from the stems that will be below the waterline.

ARRANGE the flowers in the vase, positioning the taller blooms in the centre and greenery throughout.

POSITION the vase of flowers out of direct sunlight and change the water at least once a week.

TIP To prevent pollen staining fabric or furniture, snip off the anthers found on the end of lily stamens.