Poinsettia, the Christmas Flower
Nothing says Christmas quite like Poinsettias
Years ago poinsettias only came in red, but recently breeders have developed over 100 varieties in different colors, shapes and sizes. They’re also a lot easier to grow.
Did you know?
Contrary to the common myth, poinsettias are not poisonous and never have been. So don’t worry about enjoying these gorgeous plants in your home.
The colorful part of the plant is a special leaf known as a bract. Inconspicuous flowers are the little yellow pods at the center of each cluster of bracts.
Poinsettias are tropical plants native to Central America, where they can grow as tall as trees.
Pointers to help your poinsettia thrive:
• Select a plant with dense, vigorous dark green leaves and stiff stems
• Make sure bracts are well-developed and fully-colored
• Protect from cold below 50° F when taking plants home
• Position in a sunny location away from cold windows or drafts
• Avoid heater vents because air above 70° F can fade bracts
• Water only when the soil surface begins to dry
• Avoid soggy soil that leads to root rot; never let plant sit in water
• Remove outer foil or poke drainage holes to avoid wet feet
• Fertilize every 2–3 weeks so the bracts stay colorful through spring
Poinsettias are not just for Christmas
Poinsettias make great houseplants that will provide color for years if given special care. Here's how:
Prune stems to about 8" when color starts to fade (late March–early April) so plant won't get leggy. (Wear waterproof gloves to prune because the milky sap can irritate your skin).
Let the plant rest after pruning; keep it in a sunny spot, but water only when the soil dries to a depth of about two inches.
Start fertilizing again when new growth appears (around June) and transplant to a pot about two inches larger.
Place the plant on a sunny windowsill or even outdoors and resume normal watering and fertilizing.
Pinch back new growth (once in July and again in August) for a bushy plant.
Now comes the tricky part:
Poinsettias are photoperiod plants, which mean that they set their buds as the nights become longer. Artificial light upsets this cycle, so you need to fool the plant.
Near the end of September, put the plant in a closet or cover it with a box for 14 hours each evening. Leave it in total darkness (no peeking allowed). Bring it out to a sunny spot for 10 hours each day. Maintain this cycle for 8–10 weeks, watering and fertilizing routinely.
Dedication is required, but if you stick to it, the colorful bracts will reappear. Then you can then move the plant to a sunny spot and enjoy for the holidays.
Poinsettia Care Sheet to learn more.