Poinsettia plants are synonymous with the holiday season, and in many homes and businesses this festive plant is must-have for the holidays.
As a native to hot, tropical climates, poinsettias can be a bit tricky to care for during the cooler winter months here in Southern California. However, with a little care and know-how, you can keep your holiday poinsettias vibrant and healthy throughout the holidays and beyond.
Types of Poinsettias
There are over 100 known varieties of poinsettias, with bracts (colored leaves) ranging in color from the traditional bright red to pink, white, marbled (varigated), and even speckled. If you’ve noticed blue-hued poinsettias, those are actually white-bracted varieties that have been artificially dyed.
Each variety varies in size, bract shape and color, and even the texture. There are also unique variations in the stems of the plants themselves, providing you with a wide range of options when it comes to choosing your poinsettia.
Picking a Healthy Poinsettia
Look for plants that have broad, blemish-free bracts surrounded by lots of full green foliage that extends right down to the soil line. Regardless of the height of the plant, the foliage should be at least double the diameter of the plant’s pot.
Pass on any poinsettias that are wilting, have a moldy odor, or are sold in non-breathable plastic sleeves as these plants may already be diseased.
Preserving Your Christmas Poinsettia
When you first bring your poinsettia into your home or office, place it near a sunny south or east-facing window to maximize exposure to natural light. Water until the soil is moist, and avoid leaving the base of the plant sit in water to prevent mold from forming.
If your indoor space is dry, you may need to water your festive plant daily, and be sure to protect it against drafts that can lead to premature leaf drop.
After the holidays, you can extend the life of your poinsettia by following these tips:
- Fertilize with a high-quality fertilizer to prevent calcium and magnesium deficiency
- If you plan to keep your plant longer than a few months, you should re-pot it using planter mix that contains vermiculite (perlite) to ensure good drainage
- Move your poinsettia outside in the spring into a partially-shaded spot
- Pinch back all the stems by an inch or so to promote sturdy, healthy stems
Poinsettia Myths and Facts
- As a member of the Euphorbiaceae, or Spurge family, poinsettias often leach a milky sap through their leaves. This sap can cause mild contact dermatitis among people who are sensitive to latex, which likely led to the widespread (and incorrect) belief that poinsettias are highly toxic.
- According to Jay L. Hocker of the Mayo Clinic, poinsettias are not actually poisonous per se, however, they’re not exactly edible either. Researchers at Ohio State University studied the impact of poinsettia extract on lab rats, and they concluded that contrary to popular belief, it’s impossible to ingest a fatal dose of poinsettia leaves.
- Although it’s always a good idea to keep plants away from small children and pets, the naturally bitter flavor of poinsettia leaves serves as a natural deterrent against curious kids, dogs, and cats.
By choosing a healthy, vibrant plant and following these simple care tips, you can enjoy the beauty of your holiday poinsettias throughout the winter.