A garden is never so good as it will be next year.
More than 100 different varieties of poinsettias are grown today, and you will probably purchase or receive one as a gift during this Christmas season. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are a native plant of Mexico, and were brought to the United States by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Poinsett, to his home in South Carolina around 1828.
In its native habitat, poinsettias are perennial shrubs that grow to a height of more than ten feet! Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae plant family and many of the plants in this family ooze a milky white sap when wounded. Another plant in this family includes “croton” which we prize for its variegated leaf colors in our landscape.
Although, ingestion of the sap may cause digestive discomfort, it is not toxic and despite the rumors, poinsettias are not poisonous! Although it is not advisable to eat the poinsettia, researchers with Ohio State University found that a 50-pound child would have to ingest more than 500 pounds of poinsettia bracts to have a slight stomach ache. So, if you have been wary to bring poinsettias home, they are relatively safe in a home with children and pets. As with any live plant material, care should be taken so that plant matter is not ingested because sensitivity may vary with each person and your pets.
When you select poinsettias at your favorite garden center or nursery, keep the following in mind:
• Choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line.
• Choose bracts that are completely colored. The showy colors that we value in poinsettias are not flower petals; these are actually modified leaves called bracts.
• Do not purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges.
• Do not choose plants with fallen or yellowed leaves or plants that are drooping or wilted.
• The poinsettia should look full, balanced and attractive from all sides and should be two and a half times taller than the diameter of the container.
• Be careful of plants displayed in paper or plastic sleeves. Plants held in sleeves will deteriorate quickly.
• Be careful of plants that are crowded close together (while on display) because crowding can cause premature bract loss. • Check the plant’s soil. If it is wet and the plant is wilted, this could be a sign of root rot.
• Carry a large paper bag with you when you shop for poinsettias. When you take the poinsettia home, be sure to protect it from cold temperatures and wind, especially if the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
• DON’T over water your plant, or allow it to sit in standing water. If you have kept it in the plastic sleeve that came with it from the store, remove the plant from the plastic sleeve before watering, and allow the water to drain completely before returning it to the decorative sleeve. • Place near a sunny window where it will receive the most available sunlight.
• To keep it blooming, keep the room temperature at 65 to 70 degrees F.
Did you know that the poinsettia has a special day all its own? By an Act of Congress, December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day. The date marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who is credited with introducing the native Mexican plant to the United States. The purpose of the day is to enjoy the beauty of this popular holiday plant. Christmas is a time to enjoy and celebrate our many blessings, and poinsettias are a rich tradition of our holiday season. Celebrate Christmas and enjoy the beautiful color of poinsettias.