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.
Contrary to popular belief poinsettia plants are not poisonous! Leaves, stems, bracts, and flowers are not toxic to either humans or pets.
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.
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:
Note: First published in December 2012 in I Support Lagos, updated August 2017. Author: Laurinda Seabra