Poinsettias are a staple of Christmas decorating and gifting. Native to Central America, they were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, a U.S. ambassador to South America. The colorful bracts are the plant’s leaves, the tiny yellow centers are the true flowers. Poinsettias have gotten a bad rap as being poisonous plants, but don’t worry! Like most Euphorbias, the sap can cause skin irritation but if ingested will only cause minor indigestion.
The coloring of poinsettia bracts is a response to shortening daylight hours in the fall. When kept as a houseplant, they prefer bright sunlight and some humidity to grow well, but don’t mind being moved into darker rooms for a few days to decorate for holiday celebrations. Poinsettias are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so try not to place your plant directly in front of a heater or near a drafty window or doorway. When the soil is dry to the touch, water your poinsettia until the water runs out the bottom. Don’t let the plant stand in water. If your poinsettia is in decorative foil, slip the grow pot out to water, or poke holes in the bottom of the foil for drainage. We love using decorative drop-in pots for an updated look and easier watering. Water the poinsettia at the sink, then drop the grow pot into the decorative container after it has finished draining.
After the holidays
With proper care, your poinsettia could last through February or March. When the color starts to fade, trim the plant back to 6-8 inches, keeping 2-3 leaves on each branch. Fertilize regularly. When overnight temperatures remain above 55°F, the plant can be moved outside with morning sun and afternoon shade. Around September 15th, bring the plant inside and give it 14 hours of complete and uninterrupted darkness each night to start the coloring cycle. This usually happens within 8-11 weeks.
If this seems too complicated, rest assured our talented horticulturalists are working hard each fall to make sure that our greenhouses are stocked with the best varieties on the market. They begin the growing process in August with plugs that are pinched to encourage strong branching, then planted and monitored for months. The greenhouse at 40th street is tucked away at the back of our property for optimal light cycles. Beautiful specimens can be found at our garden centers from just before Thanksgiving through Christmas.
If you’re short on time this season, order online here and we’ll have them ready for store pickup or delivery!