Well, ‘tis the season….

Without a doubt, the most popular plant during the holiday season. As a matter of fact, the annual sales of poinsettia’s during the holiday season have grown so much that they surpass the sales of all other potted plants combined.

Native to Mexico, the lovely poinsettia was introduced to America by one Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to that country, somewhere in the mid 1820’s. He started growing them in his greenhouses in South Carolina. Little did he imagine how popular they would become in the ensuing years.

So How Do I Choose My Poinsettia

At this time of year, you probably see them all over the place. They adorn flower shops and, grocery stores and just about any other place you might go to find Xmas decorations. Here’s a couple things you should look for.

Lets start with color. We’re probably all well aware that the poinsettia come is that deep red color that has been popular over the years. With a little tinkering here and there, growers have managed to create poinsettia’ that come in white, cream, yellow, pink and peach colors. A little more tinkering led to a variety in which the leaves are either striped, marbled or spotted so you should have no problem in choosing one that fits into your color scheme.

After you’ve chosen your color, make sure you pick one out that hasn’t been sitting outside or in a draft spot. Poinsettia’s are a cantankerous lot and are very sensitive to changes in the temperature. When faced with those types of conditions, they tend to drop their leaves rather quickly and you’re left with a bunch of sticks.

Once you get your little prize home be sure to put it in a safe place. Don’t put near a door, don’t put it on top of a television or anything else that might radiate heat. Whatever you do, don’t put it near a ventilating duct.

Your fickle poinsettia prefers the room temperature to stay between 68-70 degrees and ideally would prefer to have between 6 and 8 hours of indirect sunlight.

Allow the soil to become slightly dry between waterings. Don’t overdo it and allow the poinsettia to remain in standing water since they can fall victim to root rot. Do mist your plant often, they seem to like that. You can also add some fertilizer if you feel the need but it really doesn’t need it when in full bloom. If these conditions can be met, you can count on a blooming poinsettia anywhere between the months of November all the way through March.

It Ain’t Dead Is It?

No, it just looks that way. Once the bloom is over, most poinsettia’s are tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage. With a little (ok a lot) of effort, you can get your poinsettia to bloom again. Here’s what you gotta do…

First of all, when all the leaves are off, cut it back to about 8 inches in height. Keep on watering it as you normally would and keep giving it a healthy dose of fertilizer. In a couple of months, say around May or so, you should start to see some new growth.

You need to transfer the plant to a larger pot and when all danger of frost has passed and the nighttime temperature is on no danger of dropping below 50 degrees, you can place it outside. Prune it needed but make sure all of your pruning efforts are done by September. Now comes the hard part…

Light control. As I mentioned earlier, the poinsettia is rather fickle and needs to be kept in complete darkness for upwards of 14 hours straight. This means you have to cover up your little beauty with those black garbage bag or put it in a box or do whatever you have to so that no sunlight invades the poinsettia’s space. Even the hint of a streetlight or a lamp can put a crimp in the re-flowering process.

During the day in the months of October and December, make sure that your precious poinsettia is exposed to at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. The temperature should range anywhere between 60 to 70 degrees.

If you follow those daily chores, you should be rewarded with a fully blooming poinsettia just in time for the Christmas season. Personally, since I don’t possess a green thumb and am plain lazy, I just go buy new ones each year

I’ve Heard They’re Poisonous

Rubbish! Another urban legend that deserves to die!

Research conducted by The Society of American Florists in conjunction with a study conducted by the Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!) indicated that it would take your garden-variety 50 pound kid to ingest upwards of 1 ¼ pounds of poinsettia leaves before experiencing any kind of weird effects. Folks, depending on the size of your poinsettia, that would probably average anywhere between 500 to 600 leaves. Somehow I just don’t see that happening. I’m not so sure about any other little critters such as cats and dogs though. Just to be on the safe side, I wouldn’t let them chew on it or anything…

Poin*set"ti*a (?), n. [NL. Named after Joel R. Poinsett of South Carolina.] Bot.

A Mexican shrub (Euphorbia pulcherrima) with very large and conspicuous vermilion bracts below the yellowish flowers.


© Webster 1913.

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