SELECTION AND CARE OF POINSETTIAS IN YOUR HOME
A special thank-you to garden guild member, Carol Lynch,
for compiling this information.
How to select a beautiful poinsettia
Bract color: Choose
plants with thoroughly colored and expanded bracts. (Bracts are the colored
portions of the plant, while the flowers are the yellow centers.) Avoid plants
with too much green around the bract edges, as this is a sign of a plant
shipped before it was sufficiently mature. Look for plants with dense, plentiful
foliage all the way to the soil line. An abundance of rich green foliage is a
vital sign of good plant health.
Shape and proportion: Proper
proportion of plant height and shape relative to container size is the key to
an aesthetically pleasing poinsettia. Plants should appear balanced, full and
attractive from all angles. A generally accepted standard is the plant should
be 2 1/2 times taller than the diameter of the container.
Durability and freshness: Select plants with stiff stems, good bract retention and no signs
of wilting, breaking or drooping. Be wary of plants displayed in paper, plastic
or mesh sleeves, or plants that are too closely crowded in a sales display. A
poinsettia needs its space, and the longer a plant remains sleeved, the more
the plant quality will deteriorate. Crowding can reduce airflow around the
plants and cause premature bract loss or other problems. Examine the plant's
soil. It is best to avoid waterlogged soil, particularly if the plant appears
wilted. Such a condition could signify irreversible root rot. When transporting
the plant, protect it from chilling winds and temperatures below 50° F.
Re-inserting the poinsettia into a sleeve or a large, roomy shopping bag will
usually provide adequate protection for transporting the plant home when it is
cold and windy.
the DO's of poinsettia care
- DO place your plant in indirect sunlight for at least
six hours per day. If direct sun cannot be avoided, diffuse the light with a
shade or sheer curtain.
- DO provide room temperatures between 68 - 70° F.
Generally speaking, if you are comfortable, so is your poinsettia.
- DO water your plant when the soil feels dry to the
- DO use a large, roomy shopping bag to protect your plant
when transporting it.
the DON'Ts of poinsettia care
- DON'T place plants near cold drafts or excessive heat.
Avoid placing plants near appliances,
fireplaces or ventilating ducts or the top of a television.
- DON'T expose plants to temperatures below 50° F.
Poinsettias are sensitive to cold, so avoid placing them outside during the
- DON'T over water your plant, or allow it to sit in
standing water. Always remove a plant from any decorative container before
watering, and allow the water to drain completely.
- DON'T expose your plant to chilling winds when
- DON'T fertilize your plant when it is in bloom.
A Lovely Legend
poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) originates in Mexico, where it grows
as a ten-foot-tall shrub. Although it was cultivated by the Aztecs, who made a
reddish-purple dye out of the bracts and a medicine for fever from the plant's
latex, the poinsettia's religious associations date back to the 17th
century, when Franciscan priests, near Taxco, began to use the flower in
nativity processions because of its brilliant color ("The Texas Poinsettia
history of the poinsettia IN THE UNITED STATES
Poinsettias were first introduced in the United States in
1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett. While serving as the first United States
Ambassador to Mexico, he visited Taxco and found the flowers growing on the
adjacent hillsides. Poinsett, a botanist of great ability, had some plants sent
to his home in Greenville, S.C. They did well in his greenhouse and he
distributed plants to botanical gardens and to horticultural friends, including
John Bartram of Philadelphia. Bartram, in turn, supplied the plant to Robert
Buist, a nurseryman who first sold the plant as Euphorbia pulcherrima,
Willd. The name "poinsettia," however, has remained the accepted name in English-speaking
The poinsettia is NOT poisonous
The widespread belief that poinsettias are poisonous is a
misconception. The scientific evidence demonstrating the poinsettia's safety is
ample and well documented. Studies conducted by The Ohio State University in
cooperation with the Society of American Florists concluded that no toxicity
was evident at experimental ingestion levels far exceeding those likely to
occur in a home environment. In fact, the POISINDEX Information Service, the
primary information resource used by most poison control centers, states that a
50-pound child would have to ingest more than 500 poinsettia bracts to surpass
experimental doses. Yet even at this high level, no toxicity was demonstrated.
As with all ornamental plants, poinsettias are not intended for human or animal
consumption, and certain individuals may experience an allergic reaction to
poinsettias. However, the poinsettia has been demonstrated to be a safe plant.
In fact, in 1992, the poinsettia was included on the list of houseplants most
helpful in removing pollutants from indoor air. So, not only is the poinsettia
a safe and beautiful addition to your holiday decor, it can even help keep your
indoor air clean.