The Poinsettia, well known for its bright red flowers with green foliage, is available in other colors including burgundy, orange, pink, white, and patterned bi-colors (marbled and speckled). There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. This plant is also called lobster flower and flame-leaf flower because of the red color. It is a common houseplant that was discovered in Mexico and was brought to the United States in 1828 by the first ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Poinsett. Poinsettias are the best-selling potted plants in the US and Canada.
The plant is actually a tropical plant that happens to bloom during the holiday season. In Mexico, the plant is a perennial shrub that will grow 10-15 feet tall. The plant was once considered a weed. Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant, so growing them as a shrub needs to be done in a mild climate, like Southern California.
The colorful “flowers” of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called “bracts.” The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after the flowers shed their pollen. If you want a long-lasting Poinsettia plant, select one with little or no yellow pollen showing.
Here are tips on selecting your Poinsettia plant and its care:
Pick The Best One From The Store – When it comes to the selection of a plant, don’t pick one with dropped leaves or soaking wet soil. Healthy plants are full of beautiful blooms with healthy green leaves. Make sure the plant looks great from all angles. Also, look under the leaves to make sure there is no yellowing. When you are looking underneath the leaves also look for pests. Whiteflies or aphids might show up.
Picky About The Cold – Make sure when you pick up your Poinsettia that you protect it from the cold as the plant is sensitive. When you buy it make sure there is a way to wrap it in plastic or brown paper. Do not leave the plant in a cold car too long either, it is best to take it straight home.
Water With Care – If the plant container is wrapped in foil, either take the foil off or cut the bottom out so water can drain. Only water the plant when the leaves start to curl slightly. Poinsettias prefer moist soil, but the soil can’t be wet. Let the water drain through the plant and then discard any excess water from the saucer. They do love humidity so you can give these plants a light misting every day or so to keep them happy throughout the holidays. Overwatering is a common mistake that can kill the plant. After the plant is finished blooming, water it less as it needs rest after the blooming season.
Find The Right Spot To Make Your Plant Happy – As we previously mentioned the Poinsettias do not like cold, so make sure you do not place them in a location in your home where there is a draft. Poinsettias like sunlight so a sunny window with east, west, or southern exposure is great. Poinsettias need a minimum of six hours of bright sunlight each day. The optimal room temperature is around 65-70 degrees. Poinsettias also do not like being too hot, so if you have it displayed around your fireplace, you might want to move it when you plan on lighting a fire.
Preventing Leaf Loss – If you find your plant losing its leaves, there could be several reasons this is happening. These reasons include the plant being near a cold window or a draft, it being too dry or warm, or the plant needs to be watered. Wilting leaves can be a sign of under or overwatering the plant. If the soil is soggy you are overwatering.
Getting Your Plant To Rebloom – Unless you live in a tropical climate this can be a difficult task. If you do live in a tropical climate you can transplant your Poinsettia in January and the natural changes in daylight will cause the color to appear later in the year. If you live in another climate it is fairly involved to get it to rebloom. During this time it requires the plant not to be exposed to light for a period of time while keeping the plant healthy. Keeping it away from light prevents the production of chlorophyll, which makes the plant parts green. Here is an easy to follow care calendar based on the holidays of the year.
An additional interesting fact is that while many people believe the plant is deadly, it is not. If the plant is ingested by humans and animals it may cause mild irritation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Touching it may cause a rash for some people, so do not touch it frequently.