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Christmas - You Just Have to Have a Poinsettia in Your Home

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Christmas - You Just Have to Have a Poinsettia in Your Home


Written by  Staff Writer
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 23:11

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, and thereafter into the rest of the world.

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.


The Myth About Toxicity

Contrary to popular belief poinsettia plants are not poisonous! Leaves, stems, bracts, and flowers are not toxic to either humans or pets.

Poinsettia Care

  • 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 20oC.
  • 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.

After Christmas

Many people wonder how to care for their poinsettia after the holidays.
Keep your plants healthy and growing in a bright location. Cut them back to about 8” in late March and put outside when night temperatures exceed 10oC.


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.

Quick Tips to Keep Your Poinsettia Alive

Improper watering is one of the main reasons for decline of poinsettias over the holidays. Pythium root rot, caused by over-watering and/or poor drainage is one of the most common causes of death of poinsettia.

The following are some tips for keeping your poinsettia alive and beautiful:

  • Protect your poinsettia from the cold! As you carry your plant outside after you buy it, do not allow it to be exposed to the frigid air for any longer than necessary.
  • Be very careful not to over-water!
  • Water your poinsettia only when the soil becomes dry.
  • If you stick your finger in the soil and it feels damp, DO NOT water it!
  • The shiny holiday paper surrounding your poinsettia is pretty and makes a cheery display but it prevents the pots from draining properly.
  • This wrapping should be removed whenever the plants are watered and you can place it back around the pot after the pot has thoroughly drained.



Note: First published in December 2012 in I Support Lagos, updated August 2017. Author: Laurinda Seabra




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