17 December 15, 2010

For many years, the Poinsettia has been the plant associated with Christmas. The Poinsettia of old is now a distant relative to today’s Poinsettia. For many years, Poinsettias were a plant that had red leaves for a few weeks but soon the leaves died off and you were left with a pot full of ugly stems. Today’s Poinsettia can hold onto its leaves all through the holidays and beyond. If you care for it properly, you can have a beautiful Poinsettia next Christmas.

Poinsettias are not really a flowering plant. The actual flowers of the Poinsettia are those tiny yellow clusters in the center of the leaves. It is actually the leaves that turn color. What causes the leaves to turn color is the exposure of the plants to equal amounts of darkness and daylight each day. Some greenhouses achieve this by using curtains to block out some of the daylight. Once the leaves begin to turn color, the real show of the Poinsettia happens.

Many people just know the Poinsettia as a plant with red leaves. Yet the hybridizers of Poinsettias have come up with a slew of colors. You can now get Poinsettias in red, white, pink, marble and burgundy. There are also many two-toned Poinsettias as well. My newest favorites include a red with blotches of pink and a white with streaks of red through the leaves. One company has developed a dye that can be used on white Poinsettias to create blue Poinsettias and mauve colored Poinsettias. We have many of these colored and dyed Poinsettias at our store. One comment I hear all the time is that people don’t like Poinsettias, but once they see the new colors, they find out that they really do like the new colors.

People think that Poinsettias are a plant that is hard to care for. If you don’t have the right growing conditions, any plant is hard to care for! Poinsettias need to be in bright light. The light is sufficient if when you pass your hand over the plant, your hand creates a distinct shadow on the plant. Because Poinsettias are tropical in origin, they need warm temperatures. Daytime temperatures should be around 65 to 68 degrees and nighttime temperatures can go down to 62 degrees. Poinsettias do not like to be in a drafty location. When you water the plant, make sure that the soil is slightly dry before you water the plant and then water the plant with enough water so that water runs out the bottom of the pot. Do not let the plant sit in the water that has run out the bottom of the pot. Soil that remains constantly wet will kill the roots of the Poinsettia. If you have foil or any type of pot cover on the pot, either poke holes in the bottom of the foil or the cover to let the excess water drain out of the pot. You can also remove the pot cover or foil when you water and then replace them when you are done watering the plant.

The biggest problems that lead to the death of Poinsettias happen when you are bringing the plant home. Because Poinsettias are sensitive to cold temperatures, the plant should always be covered when you are bringing the plant home. We always insist that our Poinsettias are put in a plant sleeve before they leave the store.

For those of you who have heard the stories about children dying from eating Poinsettia leaves, you can be sure that it is an old wives’ tale that somehow has still circulated despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

Hopefully, those of you who have always avoided buying a Poinsettia will give it a try this holiday season.

I’ll talk to you again next week.

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