The beautiful poinsettia has become as traditional as holly and mistletoe for the winter holiday season. Native to Central America and Mexico, the poinsettia was introduced to the United States in 1830 by Joel Roberts Poinsett. The brilliant red "petals" of the poinsettia are not flower petals at all but modified leaves called bracts. These colorful bracts surround the true flowers which are small and yellow. Recent hybridizing has produced a multitude of variations on the traditional red poinsettia. Plants are now available in white, pink, peach, yellow, marbled or speckled. An abundance of dark, rich green foliage is a sign of good plant health. Choose plants with dense, plentiful foliage all the way down the stem.
Contrary to popular belief poinsettia plants are not poisonous! Leaves, stems, bracts, and flowers are not toxic to either humans or pets.
The poinsettia thrives on indirect, natural daylight. Exposure to at least six hours daily is recommended. Avoid locations where the plant is exposed to direct sunlight, as this may fade the bract color. If direct sun cannot be avoided, diffuse with a light shade or sheer curtain.
To prolong the bright color of the poinsettia bracts, daytime temperatures should not exceed 70oF. Avoid placing the plants near drafts, excess heat or the dry air from appliances, fireplaces or ventilating ducts.
Poinsettias require moderately moist soil. Water plants thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Water enough to completely saturate the soil but do not allow the poinsettia to sit in any standing water.
It is not necessary to fertilize the poinsettia when it is in bloom. However, a balanced, all-purpose household plant fertilizer (follow label directions) may help maintain rich, green foliage and promote new growth after the holidays.
Many people wonder how to care for their poinsettia after the holidays. The following are some tips -
Getting your poinsettia to re-flower is complicated but rewarding. Timing the bloom to coincide with the Christmas holiday takes more than a little perseverance for success, but with care and attention you can enjoy the beauty of this traditional holiday favorite for many season to come. Click here for specific instructions on getting your poinsettia to re-flower.