Poinsettia Care - Poinsettias
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REBLOOMING AND CARING FOR YOUR POINSETTIA
Poinsettias are a widespread Christmas tradition both for gift-giving
and holiday decorating. Yet many of these lovely plants end up in the
trash once the holidays are over. Your poinsettia will not only make a
beautiful indoor plant all year long, but can also be coaxed to bloom
again each year in time for Christmas.
Poinsettia Legend and History
Poinsettias (euphorbia pulcherrima) are native
to Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs called it cuetlaxochitl. Poinsettias
were introduced in the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, the first
U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and quickly caught on as a popular Christmas
plant. Poinsettias have thin, pale green leaves. When in bloom, they display
brightly colored bracts (red, pink, or white) on the top of each stem.
Although many mistakenly think that these bracts are flower petals, the
actual flowers are the tiny yellow clusters found at the center of the
bracts (Bract are simply leaves masquerading as petals). Another common
misconception is that the plant is poisonous. Like most euphorbias, the
sap is a little caustic and may cause skin irritation, and certainly indigestion
if digested, but if you're going to knock the hubby off for the insurance
money (there's a cheery holiday thought...), find another plant.
Poinsettias and Allergies to Latex
Poinsettias belong to the Euphorbia family and the sap
from the whole family can cause allergic reaction in about 2/3's of the
latex sensitive population.
I'm no doc and this can get a little complex, but here's
a link to a PDF document for the medico's to get their brains around...
Please consult a doctor regarding possible allergic reactions to Poinsettias
related to sensitivities to latex.
Euphorbia is a big family and I wouldn't be at all suprised to find some
of the poinsettia's kin raising some kind of latex allergy red flags.
Hat rack cactii and pencil bush are both euphorbias, as is crown of thorns,
so I'd consult a doctor about those, too. I would like to emphasize that
I'm not offering medical advice, simply advising you to seek the opinon
of a licensed doctor regarding these plants if
you suffer from latex allergies.
Forcing Poinsettias to Bloom
Poinsettias bloom in response to shortening daylight hours. If you wish
to coax your poinsettia to bloom in time for the holidays, you will need
to put the plant in total darkness for at least twelve hours (fourteen
is better) each night for approximately ten weeks (this also applies to
forcing Christmas Cacti to bloom). Late September or early October is
a good time to begin this regimen. You can place your plant inside a box,
a cupboard, or a closet to achieve complete darkness. Be sure to bring
your plant out during the day and place it in a bright, sunny spot. After
it flowers, gradually decrease the water until the bracts all drop, then
allow the plant to dry out completely (like many of the euphorbias, this
is a desert plant). Store in a place with cooler temperatures (50 degrees);
remember we are trying to recreate a Mexican Winter, so a 50 degree basement
or garage makes a fine location.
When it really begins to warm up again (Late May for us, but just so
long as you're around 50 degree evenings), repot your mummy in the same
pot with fresh soil and start to water again (we stopped gradually and
that's a good way to start) and fertilize (also gradually). Around August,
cut the plant back by a third and make a decision. Do we want bushy with
small flowers or shrubby with big flowers (my pick)? If we choose the
latter we cut the plant back to three to five stems and grow it out (remember
gloves if you have sensitive skin). A poinsettia can look quite lovely
when planted with foliage plants with contrasting leaf color, shape, and/or
size. Don’t prune your plant any later than September, however,
if you wish to force it to bloom for Christmas.
Poinsettias like lots of bright, indirect sunlight and prefer humid
conditions (so you may want to mist your plant if your home is very dry
due to heating or climate). As for watering, let the soil dry out between
watering. The soil should be dry to the touch. Also, be sure not to let
the plants pot stand in water at the plants base or saucer(A layer of
pebbles in the bottom of the tray keeps the plant out of the water and
increases the humidity around the plant). Poinsettias are sensitive to
extreme temperature, so don’t place your plant next to a heater
or near a drafty window or doorway. A daytime temp of around 65 degrees
and nights around 60 degrees will provide perfect conditions for your
poinsettia. Whitefly can sometimes be a pest for this plant; check your
purchase closely. If you pick it up, and things fly, and they're white,
well, there it is. Pretty easily taken care of with insecticidial soap
or my favorite indoor pesticide, pyrethrine (made of daisies; it's organic
and safe if you don't drink it).
Choosing Your Poinsettia
There are a lot of good poinsettias out there so choosing one can be
daunting. Growers are talking a lot about the Freedom series
for it's clear, vibrant color and huge bracts. Look for 'Freedom
Red', 'Freedom White', 'Freedom Pink',
'Freedom Hot Pink', and 'Freedom Marble'.
Salmon pink has been a big seller the past few years; I like 'Maren'.
Dave Donaldson of Donaldson Greenhouses in Hackettstown, N.J., is a big
fan of the Cortez Series; he's the best poinsettia grower I know,
so they're worth a look. As always, white goes with everything; 'Cortez
White and 'White Star' get the nod here. Probably the hottest
trend over the past few years I've seen is the marbles. 'Sonora Marble'
and 'Puebla Marble' are good additions to what we've
already listed, but my favorite multi-colored poinsetta is 'Holly
Point'. Red, pink, and white mix exquisitely on each bract; not for
the faint of heart, but a dazzling burst of color for festive cheer.
Poinsettias are a beautiful holiday tradition, but your enjoyment of
these charming plants does not have to end when the Christmas tree comes
down. With just a little effort, you can derive pleasure from your poinsettia
all year long and bring it to bloom for many holiday seasons to come.
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