Poinsettias by Charles Bohmfalk
Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were brought to the US in 1828 by the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. The Aztecs called poinsettias “Cuetlaxochitl.” During the 14th – 16th century the sap was used to control fevers and the red bracts (modified leaves) were used to make a reddish dye. In the early 1900’s the Ecke family of southern California grew poinsettias outdoors for use as landscape plants and as a cut flower. Eventually the family grew poinsettias in greenhouses and today is recognized as the leading producer of poinsettias in the United States. I grew up in the lower Rio Grand Valley and we had Poinsettias growing outside. Poinsettias are very tender. They will NOT survive cold winter weather in our area.
The plant you choose should have dark green foliage. Fallen, low or damaged leaves indicate poor handling, fertilization, lack of water or a root disease problem. The colorful flower bracts (red, pink, white or bicolor pink and white) should be in proportion to the plant and pot size. Little or no pollen should be showing on the actual flowers (those red or green button-like parts in the center of the colorful bracts). If the temperature is below freezing and the wind is blowing, it might be a good idea to be sure the plant is well wrapped when you take it outside on your trip home. Exposure to low temperatures for even a short time can injure leaves and bracts. Unwrap the plant as soon as possible because the stems of the leaves and bracts can droop and twist if the plant is left wrapped too long.
Place your poinsettia near a sunny window or other well-lighted area. Do not let any part of the plant touch cold window panes. Poinsettias do not tolerate warm or cold drafts. Place your poinsettia in a cooler room at night (55 to 60 degrees F is ideal) to extend the blooming time.
Examine the soil daily and water only when it feels dry. Always water enough to soak the soil to the bottom of the pot and discard the excess water. If you don’t water enough, the plant will wilt and the lower leaves will drop. If you water too much the lower leaves will yellow and then drop. If you keep your plant for several months, apply a soluble houseplant fertilizer, once or twice a month according to the manufacturers recommendations. One easy way to water the Poinsettia is to remove it from the decorative foil wrapper and place it in a bowl of water. (Do not remove the plant and soil from the pot.) Let the water soak up into the plant from the bottom. If it quickly soaks up all of the water, then add more. Do not leave the plant sitting in water for a long period of time. After the plant has taken as much as it will, remove the plant from the bowl and let the excess water drain (into the sink). After it has drained, replace the plant back into the foil wrapper.
Enjoy your Christmas season plant