Poinsettias are one of the most dramatic and elegant holiday plants. The poinsettia was brought to our country by the first US Ambassador, Joel Robert Poinsette. He discovered them in Mexico in 1825. They have many titles such as, The Mexican Wildflower, Flower of the Holy Night in Central America, Christmas Star in the Netherlands, Flor De Nochebueno which means Flower of the Christmas Eve. In their native land they grow 12 feet, growing wild over the hill sides. Most people think the colored leaves are the flowers but if you look closely in the center of the plant you’ll see tiny buds. These buds will open to small yellow flowers. When looking for a healthy plant, look for their buds to be closed and their leaves to be perky. Choose one that is not loosing bottom leaves.
Poinsettias are not poisonous, though they may irritate. I have had many customers tell me they couldn’t purchase them because they are poisonous or have children and pets. That’s probably what half the country believes still today and for the last 75 years. But studies conducted by The Ohio State University in cooperation with the Society of American Florists concluded that no toxicity is evident. In fact, the POISINDEX Information Service, the primary information resource used by most poison control centers, states that a 50 lb. child would have to ingest over 500 poinsettia leaves to even have any serious health issues. With that being said, still use caution with them as with any plant or flower around children and pets. My mothers cat “Spooky” was 19 years old and unfortunately for my mom Spooky ate her poinsettia plants for years. Sad to say that once beautiful poinsettia by the end of the season was reduced to nothing but stems with holey torn leaves.
Poinsettia growing tips:
- Light: Place plant in 5-6 hours of bright indirect sun.
- Temperature: The temperature in your home should be 68-70*. Remember they are native to Mexico so they do like it warmer. Poinsettias don’t like cold drafts, heat vents or near fireplaces.
- Water: Water the plant when the soil feels slightly dry. They do not like wet feet, so if you bought it in a fancy foil wrap please poke holes in the bottom. Loosing yellow leaves could be a sign of over watering.
- Fertilize: You don’t need to fertilize while the plant is blooming. The tiny flowers are on the top of the plant. The leaves are the colorful bracts that changed after they received the right amount of lightness and darkness for 8-10 weeks.
Foil Wrap, Friend or Foe
You bring home those gorgeously decorated holiday plants. The foil and bow you’ve just paid for was a little pricey but you wanted everything to be perfect for this festive season so you splurged. You place your plants around in the spots that you so carefully picked out earlier. After a few days you go to water them. You don’t check to see if they needed it, you just watered because you had to get it done (there’s so much more to get ready for). Suddenly right before your big event you look at your plants again and they are just not looking perky. In fact they look half dead. You check for water but notice the plants are full of water in the foil wrap. Oh no! It’s over watered. The salesperson never told me to poke holes in it. I didn’t have time to think about things like that. You pack up your plants and go right back to the place you bought them. Luckily they give you replacements. You go back home all is good. This time you’ll poke the holes in the foil. The festivities are saved. Friend or foe, definitely foe.