How to Care for Poinsettias
For more than 200 years, Poinsettias have stood out as a Christmas staple in America. However, not everyone is equipped with the knowledge to care for these unique flowers. By estimate, around 35 million potted poinsettias are sold in America every year.
The poinsettia plant is a shrub that features a cluster of small yellow flowers enveloped by brilliant red floral bracts – the modified leaves. These plants bloom during the holiday season as they are called Mexican flameleaf but require special attention for them to be in good condition for the new year and after.
Some people do not mind keeping the plant for a couple of weeks after the holiday season. Others have learned what it takes to keep poinsettias alive through the year, so it blossoms the following holiday season as well.
For everyone who wants to take on the challenge of keeping poinsettias through the year, there are some essentials one needs to know before visiting the local nursery.
In contrast to what many believe, poinsettias are not toxic to pets or animals, so keeping them throughout the year will not cause any harm. However, it could be mildly toxic to dogs or cats if they eat the plan in excessive quantity
Brief History of the Poinsettia Plant
The Poinsettia stands out as the most popular indoor plant people use during the Christmas holidays. People associate it with Christmas because the flower comes out at this time of the year. The Franciscan priest in 1600 engaged the flowers to celebrate a nativity procession – Fiesta of Santa Pesebre.
Lots of Mexicans believe that the plant symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. In Mexico, a common legend is that an angel instructed a poor girl to pluck a weed and put it on the altar. She did this since she couldn't afford to take the flowers to her native church. While on the altar, the seed turned to pretty red Poinsettia.
Around the mid-1920s, Joel Robert Poinsett, American ambassador to Mexico, took some of the plants home. He introduced some of the poinsettias he cultivated to various botanical gardens. Eventually, the beautiful plant was named after him.
However, every year, the Poinsettia seems just to survive Christmas and die. However, it became popular when researchers energized it and extended the flowering period in the 1960s.
With this, the poinsettias stand out as the most widely cultivated Christmas flowering plant in the United States. Even with its short life span – six weeks, it is the number one flowering potted plant in the US. Tens of millions of poinsettias are sold every year. It is not toxic, although there are reports of allergies.
caring for your poinsettia
Why discard this beautiful plant come January? As long as you are up for it, you can keep the plant healthy and vibrant all year round.
The trick lies in getting it right with the amount of sunlight, water, and warmth in caring for the plant. If you can keep up with the care, the Poinsettia will bloom next Christmas again.
Poinsettias love bright, diffused sunlight. As a result, ensure you place your plant near a window where it can get at least seven hours of diffused sunlight a day. While it might survive with a few hours of sunlight, it might not be as healthy or live up to expectations.
However, ensure the plant does not receive direct sunlight as well. This is essential so that it doesn't burn the leaves and bracts. Once the leaves start dropping, the plant might need more light.
Typically, people buy poinsettias that are potted from the nursery. However, select a potting soil that drains well for people who want to plant or replant their Poinsettia.
As soon as the soil surface seems dry, water the Poinsettia when watering lavish water on the plant until it starts dripping through the holes at the plant's bottom. However, water should not sit in the plant.
For pots covered with foil, ensure you have a couple of holes through the bottom to allow excess water drainage. Too much water will kill your Poinsettia, and wilting leaves might be pointers that you are supplying too much water.
Humidity and temperature
If you want your Poinsettia to bloom and survive as long as possible, keep the temperature between 65 and 75F in the day. The plant should survive a few drops in temperature at night.
However, watch out for cold drafts. Also, please don't allow the leaves to come in contact with a cold window as it can hurt the leaves and trigger a change in color for the leaves, where they turn yellow. Inadequate light might also make the leaves yellow.
Low humidity, especially in the dry season, and winter might be an issue for poinsettias and many houseplants. As a result, people who have a dry home, especially in winter, should consider investing in a humidifier for a small space. It will help ensure that your Poinsettia gets the needed humidity for survival.
As long as your Poinsettia is blooming, don't add fertilizers. However, if you want to keep it through the year, add fertilizer in the spring, especially when you notice retarded growth. Consider adding fertilizer every month until the plant is revived.
Pruning is not essential if you only keep the plant for the holidays. However, you can prune if you notice broken branches. Also, if you are keeping the Poinsettia through the year, you need to prune around late spring or early summer.
If you want the Poinsettia to have a tree-like shape, make it a habit to remove all dead branches and the foliage. This will pave the way for new growths, giving the shrub a better shape. While pruning, ensure you always wear gloves to avoid the sticky release from the tree that can trigger irritation.
getting your poinsettia to rebloom
As the holiday winds down, poinsettias generally will shrink and fall. However, with the proper care, the plant will rebloom by the following holiday season. Here are simple care routines for your poinsettia plant:
1. Prune It: As soon as the bracts fall off, prune the plant. This will make the stem tall – at least 5 inches. Restrict the leaves to three on each branch to foster new growth.
2. Fertilize it every couple of weeks: As the plant grows and brings forth new shoots, fertilize it every couple of weeks.
3. Repot the plant in summer: prune the Poinsettia until it is around five inches tall around June, and transfer it into a bigger container. Consider using a well-draining potting soil and add water until the excess drains out.
4. Transport the plant outdoors: While poinsettias are indoor plants, you can move them outside in the hotter months when the temperature rises all day and night.
5. Encourage side branching by Pinching: You can encourage side branching as the poinsettias grow by cutting just an inch off the tip of the stem to encourage side branching. Do this around July and August to prevent the plant from growing long. By December, trim it again to encourage more green leaves.
6. Put it in a Warm environment: Poinsettias need long hours of darkness to bring about new bracts. As the fall approaches, place the poinsettias in a warm environment where about 15 hours of complete darkness is guaranteed per day. If you can't get such a warm environment, consider putting it in a closet and cover with a box. However, ensure that they get around 9 hours of indirect sunlight every day.
7. Display the Poinsettia: by mid-November, the Poinsettia should start displaying colored bracts. When this happens, stop adding fertilizers and show the plant outside. Continue winter care routine as you nurture the plant.
are poinsettias poisonous?
No matter what you have heard or read, poinsettias are not dangerous to humans or pets. Touching the plant or munching on a couple of leaves will not harm you. Before poinsettias can hurt anyone or your pet, they must have ingested a substantial amount of the leaves.
Note, however, that the plant releases a sticky, milky sap that can cause skin and eye irritation for people allergic to latex. As a result, you should wear gloves when handling it and wash any fluid off your skin as soon as possible. However, there is no risk of anyone getting poisoned by this plant.
You can create the Christmas mood by decorating with poinsettias. They are simple plants that require no particular maintenance routine. As long as you water the plant regularly, keeping it alive through the holiday period is possible.
Pairing poinsettias with a series of holiday-oriented indoor plants like Christmas cacti, baubles, red succulent, etc., will make your home a Christmas haven. You can check Another Bloomin' Nursery for many of these Christmas-themed plants.
However, you need not dispose of your poinsettias when the holiday season is over. As long as you are up for it, there is various care routine you can engage in caring for your poinsettias. This will keep the plant healthy so that it can survive and boom the coming Christmas as well.
Poinsettias come in varieties, so you have various options to create unique displays and choose something that will reflect your style.