The image of the poinsettia that comes to mind is the fiery red plant we see everywhere at holiday time.
The poinsettia is indigenous to a region in Mexico, where they bloom during December creating crimson mountainsides and growing to heights of 16 feet. While the deep red poinsettias are classic favorites, newer cultivars have produced a variety of different colors – pink, cream, yellow, salmon and marbled flowers to add a distinctive touch to your holiday décor.
- Constant temperatures from 65°- 70° F
- Moist, but not wet, soil
- Bright, indirect sunlight
When shopping for a poinsettia look for:
- Dark green, dense and plentiful foliage.
- Tightly-clustered buds to last throughout the holiday season.
- The smallest leaves surrounding the yellow buds to be fully colored. If they’re still partially green, your plant will quickly lose its color.
- If the yellow buds in the center of the flower have started to drop off or have already shed pollen (look for tiny yellow grains), the plant is not fresh.
- Avoid plants with yellow, greenish-white or sagging leaves. Plants with faded, torn or discolored bracts (leaves beneath the flower) are not the best choice either.
- As with any plant, make sure your poinsettia is free from insects and diseases.
When you have chosen the perfect poinsettia, don’t leave it in your car while you continue shopping. An indoor plant that’s exposed to cold winds and temperatures below 50 degrees can be damaged or killed. Get the store to bag the plant, but make sure to remove any wrappings as soon as you get home.
Poinsettias are easy to care for throughout the holidays. Just follow these simple rules:
- LIGHT- Poinsettias need a minimum of 6 hours bright (but no direct) sunlight each day.
- TEMPERATURE – These plants prefer temperatures from 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day with a drop to 60-65 degrees at night. The lower night temperatures help the poinsettias keep their brilliant color. Protect the plants from both cold and hot drafts from outside doors, heat registers or appliances. Never let the plant exposed to temperatures less than 55 degrees.
- WATER – Poinsettias like moist, but not wet, soil. When the top of the soil becomes dry, add room temperature water to the plant. Allow the water to drain through the pot when watering, and then discard any excess water in the saucer. If the plant’s container was wrapped with decorative foil, be sure to remove the foil from the bottom of the container to allow water to drain through the plant. Overwatering the poinsettia and letting it sit in excess water are common mistakes that will kill the plant. If your poinsettia begins to wilt, too much or too little water could be the culprit. If the plant feels dry, add water immediately. If the container feels heavy and the soil is wet, allow the poinsettia to dry out before watering it again.
Looking for creative ways to display your poinsettias?
- Incorporate poinsettias into your holiday centerpieces.
- Instead of the tired red, green or gold foil poinsettias always seem to be wrapped in, make your arrangement more interesting just by placing it in a decorative pot with a few other potted plants.
- Choose plants that will complement your poinsettia. Variegated ivy, maidenhair fern, and creeping fig, for example, can balance the border foliage of poinsettias.
- Create a poinsettia tree by arranging medium sized plants on different levels.
- Cluster several poinsettias together in an unused fireplace.
The Legend of Poinsettia
A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve services. As Pepita walked sorrowfully to church, her cousin Pedro tried to console her. “Pepita,” he said, “I am certain that even the most humble gift, given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.”
Pepita gathered a bouquet of common weeds from the roadside, for this was the only gift she could give. As she entered the chapel and approached the altar, her spirits lifted. Forgetting the humbleness of her gift, the girl laid the weeds at the feet of the Christ Child. Suddenly, Pepita’s ordinary weeds burst into brilliant red blooms! This miraculous event was named the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night. Today we call these flowers poinsettias!
Photo Credit: Renee Fisher via Unsplash