Pick a Plant – Poinsettias

There are few plants more associated with Christmas than the colourful poinsettia, which frequently doubles as a decoration and a gift. It’s not easy, but you can keep poinsettias for another year of colour.

Poinsettias are part of the euphorbiaceae family. In nature, poinsettias are a perennial flowering shrub that can grow to 3m tall. The showy, coloured parts of poinsettias  that some people think are the flowers are actually coloured bracts – modified leaves – and can be flaming red, pink or white. The flowers or cyathia of the poinsettia are in the centre of the colourful bracts and are usually red, pink, white, and bi-colored

There are over 100 varieties of poinsettia available.  With care, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks and some varieties will stay attractive for months.

Selecting a poinsettia
Choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line.
Choose bracts that are completely coloured.
Do not purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges.
Do not choose plants with fallen or yellowed leaves.
The poinsettia should look full, balanced and attractive from all sides.
The plant should be two and a half times taller than the diameter of the container.
Do not purchase plants that have been displayed or crowded close together. Crowding can cause premature bract loss.
If the flowers are green or red-tipped and fresh-looking, the bloom will “hold” longer than if yellow pollen is covering the flowers.
Caring for your Poinsettia
Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place in a sunny window. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.
Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from radiators or open doors and windows.
As poinsettias are native to Central America, they can not be grown out of doors during our Scottish winters. They require daytime temperatures of 60-70°F / 16-21°C and night time temperatures of around 55°F / 13°C. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible.
Check the soil daily. Water when the soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess liquid.

If you follow these rules, you can be sure that this beautiful plant will bring you plenty of festive joy throughout the Christmas season and beyond.

Make It Last

The poinsettia is a pretty time consuming plant to keep and to induce to reflower but it’s worth a try. Here’s how.
After Christmas, fertilize the plant with a complete fertilizer about once a week until it loses its bracts. Then let the soil dry out completely. Keep it in a cool, sunny place.

In Spring, (late April or early May), cut the stems back to 75mm – 100mm. If the roots are congested, repot. Begin light watering. It will soon begin to shoot. Once the new shoots are 25mm long, apply a complete fertilizer. When the new growth is 100mm-15-mm long, prune to shape.

In September, you are going to start shortening the poinsettia’s day artificially, so put a cardboard box over the plant between 5 pm to 8 am. Do this until the plant’s bracts start to colour sometime in late November or early December. Then take care of the plant as above.

Did You Know?

    • Poinsettias are native to Mexico but in Chile and Peru, the poinsettia is called the Crown of the Andes.
    • The Aztecs called poinsettias cuetlaxochitle.
    • Between the 14th and 16th centuries, the sap was used to control fevers and the bracts were used to make a reddish dye.
    • Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, would have poinsettias brought into what is now Mexico City by caravans. This is because poinsettias could not be grown at such a high altitude.
    • William Prescott, a 14th century historian and horticulturist, published a book called the Conquest of Mexico in which he detailed plant collector, US senator and ambassador Joel Roberto Poinsett’s discovery of the plant. He named the plant the poinsettia in honour of its discoverer.
    • The botanical name was assigned to the poinsettia by German botanist Karl Ludwig Wilenow, director of the botanical gardens in Berlin. He received his first poinsettia when it was brought to him from an expedition to Central America in 1800.
    • Eighty per cent of poinsettias are purchased by women.
    • Eighty per cent of people who purchase poinsettias are over 40 years of age.


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