Poinsettias’ festive red blooms make it the signature plant for the Christmas season and the best-selling potted plant in the United States. The flower, known in Mexico as “Flores de Noche Buena” or “Flowers of the Holy Night,” got its American name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett discovered the flowers growing wild on bright red hillsides in Mexico in the 1820s and shipped snippets to his home in South Carolina during the holiday season.
Caring for Your Poinsettia
There’s nothing quite like a bright red poinsettia to help your home feel festive for the holidays. Place your poinsettias where they can receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. The plants don’t need direct sunlight; place them in a room that receives ample natural light to help them thrive without overexposing them to the sun.
Poinsettias look beautiful bordering a fireplace, framing an entryway, or as part of a table centerpiece. However, they will not survive temperatures below 55 degrees, so unless you live in a temperate climate or are enjoying a warm winter, they are best enjoyed indoors during the Christmas season. Poinsettias will flourish if the temperature drops slightly at night, so if your home stays warm overnight, placing the plant near a window or in a cooler room can help.
They will thrive indoors as long as they are given the appropriate amount of water; it’s common to give them too much water. You want to be sure the soil is moist but not too wet, and that any decorative foil wrapping the pot is punctured to allow for water to drain out. Check the top of the soil and see if it feels dry. If so, add room temperature water.
The soil poinsettias come planted in will last approximately six to eight weeks, but if you are repotting them, you have several options. Poinsettias will not thrive in field soil because it does not provide enough drainage, so potting soil is preferred. You could also select peat moss or wood residues. It is not necessary to fertilize the plant while it is in bloom.
Whether you chose a poinsettia that has signature red blooms or one of the other 100 varietals that include pink, white, and multicolored blooms, the colors will all last about six to eight weeks. You may decide you want to keep the plant year-round. If so, you’ll need to regularly apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month.
After the blooms and leaves drop, water the plant less frequently. A poinsettia needs to rest after the blooming phase. In March or April, prune its stems to half their size. Once you notice new growth, you can begin watering the plant regularly again. If you would like, you can place the poinsettia outdoors in a spot away from direct sunlight once night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. Prune the plant again in the summer to encourage it to grow larger.
Coaxing your poinsettia to rebloom can be tricky because the plant needs a strict regimen of light and darkness for blooms to get their full color. When temperatures are cooler, be sure to bring the plant indoors. For at least 40 days, you must ensure the plant gets at least 13 to 16 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day and eight hours of sunlight. It’s easiest to do this by placing it in a dark room, closet, or covering it for most of the day and placing it near a sunny window for the remainder of the time.
Poinsettias have a reputation of being poisonous, but the level of poison in their leaves and foul taste make it unlikely for them to pose a threat to humans. However, keep pets away from eating the leaves since they can upset animals’ stomachs. The sap that the plants produce can irritate the skin of some people, especially anyone with a latex allergy, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the leaves.
Poinsettias are the perfect floral to prepare your home for the holiday season and to spread festive cheer.
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