Botanical name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Tis the season for Poinsettia! These colourful, leafy plants appear in our stores and in our homes at this time of year; they mark the coming of winter and the many holidays we celebrate this season. Caring for your Poinsettia and keeping it healthy all season long, is not too difficult if you follow our Expert Tips! Read on to discover more.
The plant is native to Mexico and was brought to the US in the 1820s by the American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. In Mexico the plant is known as ‘La Flor de la Nochebuena’ – Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve. These plants are native to Mexico, and grow as perennial shrubs up to 15 feet in height. They once were considered a pesky weed!
Despite rumors to the contrary, Poinsettias are not poisonous. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. The leaves taste terrible so pets are not likely to eat them. That said, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea and it may be best to keep pets away from the plant.
They are available in more than 100 colours: red, yellow, peach, pink, burgundy, speckled, ivory and more. Some of the varieties include Plum Pudding, Winter Rose and Jingle Bells.
How to care for them
- Wrap the plant in a paper bag when transporting the plant. Do not leave in an unheated vehicle.
- Place in a room where there is plenty of natural light but keep away from the hot afternoon sun.
- Keep the plant out or reach of children and/or pets. The sap from the stems can cause skin irritation.
- Poinsettias do not like drafts. Keep away from hot or cold drafts from appliances, heaters, ventilation and doors.
- They hate soggy roots. After watering thoroughly, discard excess water from the saucer. If the plant is in a plastic wrapper, poke drain holes in the bottom of wrapper or remove the wrapper.
Reflowering the poinsettia
- In December, while the plant is in full bloom, water as needed.
- When the flower begins to fade, about February, keep near a sunny window and fertilize and new growth appears. Cut stems back to 8”.
- In early June, repot if necessary. Move outside during the summer, on the east or north side of the house. Fertilize and water regularly. Pinch to maintain a short, stocky plant.
- In late August, take inside. Cut stems back leaving 3 to 4 leaves per shoot. Check for insects. Put in sunny window. Water and fertilized as needed.
- From mid-September to December 1, keep in light only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The plant must be put into the dark where there are no lights – not even artificial light. Even a street lamp or night light can disrupt the night schedule. Some greenhouses cover them with thick black cloth or another solution is to cover with a cardboard box painted black on the inside.
- The key to success is following the light/dark instructions very carefully.
By November, the plant should start showing colour.
Enjoy your Poinsettia for another season!
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