Everything You Need to Know about Poinsettia

Indigenous to Mexico and known by its Latin name Euphorbia pulcherrima, referred to as “Christmas flower,” the Poinsettia is an important commercial plant thanks to its red and green foliage, for which it’s well known for, according to the Poinsettia article on Wikipedia. Poinsettia is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, Mexico’s first United States ambassador, who introduced the plant to America in 1835. According to Garden Action’s article on the plant, Poinsett obtained samples of the plant from Mexico’s wild south. Since then the plant has become extremely popular in America, and not just in America; homes in Australia and in the United Kingdom host the plant, especially during Christmas time. It’s also become significantly popular over the years. A Poinsettia is a cheery plant, according to RHS Gardening’s article, and it is one of the most highly recognized seasonal plants.

Description of the Poinsettia

According to Britannica’s article on the plant, the Poinsettia grows outdoors in warmer climates as a leggy shrub at 10 foot high (3 meters), though when it is grown indoors it doesn’t grow taller beyond a meter. The flower is a popular gift and decoration in the home, according to About Flowers article on the Poinsettia, flower-like bracts which can exceed twelve inches can grow on plants. They can be red, white, pink, speckled while the bracts are surrounded by smaller yellow flowers. Though the red variety is the most common plant, there are several different varieties that come in different sizes and colors. The colors range from the traditional red, naturally, to a creamy white variety, to shades of pink. Among their varieties, people can easily buy poinsettias as trees, in hanging baskets, or just freshly-cut flowers you can put into a vase.

Significance

The Poinsettia significance is not limited to just Christmas; according to The Flower Expert’s article on them, the plant was especially prized by the Ancient Aztec people of Mexico as a symbol of purity. The Aztecs also used the plant to help them make red dye and antipyretic medication. The Aztecs named the plant Cuetlaxochitl, which basically means a flower that grows in residues or soil. Again, it was Mexico who adopted the plant for its red foliage as their Christmas Eve flower before it became known as the “Christmas Flower in North America,” and it became a feature in several decorations over the Christmas period. It’s easy to see why, from a religious point of view, since the poinsettias are a bright red in color, and for some people, their star-shaped appearance symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. Today in America, the 12th December is known as National Poinsettia Day.

How to grow and care for the Poinsettia.

According to About Flowers article on poinsettias the best way to choose a healthy plant would be to choose one which comes with small buds which are tightly packed in the center with crisp and undamaged foliage. It’s best to avoid the plants if they are being kept in a windy or crowded space. They should be kept (or grown) in places where they should avoid hot or cold drafts, and they should be protected from cold winds. According to Garden Action’s article on the poinsettia, the soil should be checked frequently because the leaves can fall prematurely. The British grown poinsettia, according to Love the Garden’s article on them, states the plants are grown “hard” which means they are tougher than the ones grown in European countries.

Growing them outside

In the right climate, it’s possible to grow the poinsettia outside. They need to be planted in the right place, according to Gardening Know How, and with care this exclusively Christmas plant can quickly develop. You just need to treat the plant well when you buy it. They need to have a sunny place to grow in, where they will be protected from harsh winds since they can be heavily damaged by them. The best soil to grow the poinsettia in should be slightly acidic and drains well so the roots won’t rot. The poinsettia should NOT be planted outside instantly after Christmas, and they should be planted when the risk of frost has passed.

Dig a small hole of about 16 inches deep, in a place where the plant is certain to receive the full benefit of the morning sun while getting partial shade during the afternoon. According to the wiki how article on how to grow the poinsettia this is the best condition for the plant. When the plant is in its hole, mulch it down to keep the soil moist. Fertilize the spot especially if you’re not sure if the soil is rich. If you wish to propagate the plant, then cut 8 inches from the stems to grow new poinsettias. Place them into rooting hormones before planting them in pots of potting soil. The soil must be moist, not wet. The soil must be moist for several weeks while the roots grow.

During the winter, the soil must be over-mulched to keep the poinsettia warm. If you live in a place where the climate is cold, bring them indoors by digging them up. The great thing about caring for the outdoor poinsettia plant is its not hard. During the spring, you should see the green shoots beginning to appear. That is when you need to begin a watering and feeding program for the poinsettia. You can water the plants with a water-soluble fertilizer which can go in with the water in the watering can every week or two. It’s also possible for you to use slow release pellets during this time. According to the same article, the poinsettia when it grows freely tends to become quite leggy and rather tall, this can be prevented by regular trimming, and when you pinch the tips of new growth, this will create a bushier plant. The bracts will be much smaller.

Growing them inside

According to wiki how’s article, the poinsettia needs to be watered until the spring if you bought the plant during the winter months. In the early summer, repot the plant in a pot which is much larger than what it came in. The soil should be moist and be a rich potting mix high in organic matter to encourage the poinsettia to thrive. The pot should be placed in a spot giving it plenty of sunlight, though only near windows that only receive bright but not too bright sunlight. Don’t place them near a window which exposes the plants to cold temperatures. In summer, so long as the temperature is warm and doesn’t drop below the sixty-five-degree mark, it is safe to keep the plant outside which will benefit the plant as it grows though place them in areas that offer partial shade.

They should be watered throughout spring and the poinsettia’s growing season – remember to poke the soil the plant is in manually to see if the top layer is dry and if it is water it until the water trickles out of the drainage holes. When the saturation slows down, that’s when you should stop watering. Don’t let the water pool on the surface of the soil. Potted poinsettia kept indoors needs to be fertilized on a monthly basis. The best liquid fertilizer should be a 12-12-12 or 20-20-20 compound, and it should be repeated every month, and it should only be stopped when its time for the flowers to appear. Prune the plant to keep it bushy during the growing period while either discarding what you take off or you can use them to grow new poinsettias in either your home or in your garden. During late fall or during early winter time the growth needs to be cut back to encourage the growth of the plant. Don’t let the poinsettia freeze – bring it back indoors. See below for information about keeping it in a dark place to make sure the leaves grow red again.

Dormancy period

According to the wiki how article on growing poinsettia, when the yellow flowers in the center of the leaves start to wilt – this would usually occur around February or March – the dormancy period of the poinsettia has come. You should prune the plant heavily; trim to ten inches. You can use the cuttings to propagate the plant and grow new poinsettias elsewhere. Don’t water for a few months until the start of spring. Let the soil dry out before watering it again.

Making the Poinsettia brighten again

After Christmas its hardly surprising that you throw the poinsettia away after the festivities. It’s possible to keep them going for a long time, fortunately, according to this Love the Garden article on the poinsettia. The stems should be cut back to four or six inches in April. The plants should be re-potted, preferably in something bigger this time around, and allowed to grow in a cool place around a mild 18 degrees. In the summer, it might be beneficial to keep them outdoors, though on a sheltered patio, especially if the temperatures are fifteen degrees centigrade. The coloring the bract is only brought on by short winter day lengths, and starting from October the plants need roughly twelve hours of total darkness each day during a period of eight to ten weeks. They should either be kept in a cupboard or in a cardboard box or in a light-proof bag. Don’t break this pattern – if you miss a day and expose the plant to light, it will hinder or even stop the recoloring process. The best temperature to keep them at to allow them to color up properly is around eighteen degrees centigrade.

Pruning

When the poinsettia finishes flowing, they should be pruned to encourage the growth of fresh flowers and more compact growth. According to About the Garden’s article on the poinsettia, regular pruning on a natural leggy looking poinsettia will keep it looking fairly bushy in appearance. The poinsettia leaks sap, a white, sticky sap – some people will be allergic to it, so wearing gloves is a must.

Temperature.

The Poinsettia should be kept in a place with the temperature being sixty-degrees for the night, during the day the temperature should be seventy-two degrees though high humidity is preferable – it makes sense given the origins of the plant since Mexico is a humid country.

Watering the Poinsettia

The poinsettia is best watered when you check manually by poking the soil the plant is growing in to see if its dry, and if the plant is being grown in a pot if there is any water left over in the saucer should be thrown out, according to the About Flowers article on the poinsettia. According to Garden Action’s article on the poinsettia, the soil should be checked daily, and that they should be watered until excess water drains out of the holes of the plant. The plants should not be left standing in water because the wet soil lacks sufficient enough air for the plant to thrive in, injuring the roots. Poinsettia planted in areas exposing them to conditions of both high light and high humidity will require more frequent watering. If the plant wilts the Poinsettia should be immediately watered during intervals of five minutes. The water must always be tepid, never straight from the tap.

Toxicity

A common misconception of the poinsettia is that it is toxic. This myth began in 1919, when a two-year-old died, allegedly, after eating a leaf from the poinsettia. The sap is slightly toxic, but the rest of the poinsettia is only mildly toxic.


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