Poinsettias are cheerful plants that are often planted indoors during the holiday season because to their brilliantly colored bracts. They are frequently discarded after they begin to fade, but with a little care, you can preserve them all year and the bracts will recolor the next year. Poinsettias have three main seasons: spring, summer and winter. In the spring, when temperatures are low but not freezing, plant seeds in soil or sand. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Seeds will sprout in about seven days and seedlings should be transplanted when they reach around 18 inches tall. In the summer, when it's hot outside, put plastic wrap on top of your pot and fill with water. The heat will cause the water to boil which will help its growth. Remove the plastic wrap once the plants reach 48 hours without water. In the winter, don't worry if you forget about your poinsettia for several months at a time - it won't die off - instead, store it in a cool, dark place for use next summer.
The poinsettia, a well-known Christmas decorative, is a deciduous shrub with big, alternating leaves that may or may not have teeth on the margin. During the Christmas season, the cup-shaped yellow "flowers" bloom and cluster above spectacular red, pink, or white foliage bracts. The poinsettia gets its name from Joel Poinsett, an American minister who brought the first plants to America in 1882.
Poinsettias belong to the cactus family (Cactaceae). They are grown for their attractive green or reddish-brown foliage which tends to be glossy when young but becomes duller with age. The thick, spiny pads around the roots are poisonous if eaten.
The poinsettia's large, alternate leaves can grow up to 2 feet long. They are usually dark green on the top side and light green below. The edges of the leaves often have bristly hairs called trichomes. These flowers appear in clusters at the end of branches that extend vertically from the plant. Each flower is composed of a bell-shaped blue corolla with five lobes and no stamens or pistils. The flat center carries an array of brown filaments that give the appearance of little stars when viewed from the front.
When exposed to cold temperatures, such as those found in winter, the poinsettia will lose all of its bright colors.
After a time of darkness, bracts appear on poinsettia plants in late October. Although not a genuine flower, the bracts are responsible for the poinsettia plant's lovely color throughout the Christmas season. When they start to fade, it's time to start preparing the plant for next year's flowers. There are two ways to propagate poinsettias: from cuttings or from seeds.
Cuttings can be taken during the dormant period (late fall until early spring). Cuttings will root in slightly moist soil with some sunlight per week. When the cuttings reach about 12 inches tall, they're ready to be transplanted. Poinsettias like well-drained soil with plenty of phosphorus and potassium. They also love high temperatures but will tolerate low temperatures as long as they have heat during the night. If you want to grow poinsettias in your yard, put up a cold frame or greenhouse to provide these conditions.
Seeds should be planted in mid-to-late summer when the soil is warm and ready for them. Young plants should be spaced about 3 feet apart, while older ones can be placed closer together. Water regularly and feed every other month with a high-phosphorus fertilizer.
As soon as you get the first signs of winter, protect your poinsettia plant by covering it with an indoor cover crop or outdoor fabric.
Poinsettias are reasonably easy to keep alive during the brief holiday season, but getting them to bloom again the following year is a more difficult task. Cut down the stems just below the blooms once the colorful bracts fade and fall off the plant after the holidays. > span class="image-right">
The best way to save your own poinsettia plants for next year is to take cuttings from healthy leaves on the plant. You can either use a sharp knife to make an incision 1 inch deep into the stem and then peel back the lower layer of bark to reveal fresh white wood, or you can use a commercial cutting kit. Place the cut end in water until it roots, then transfer the plant to a new container for growth under indoor lights or in a sunny window box. As soon as the plant reaches 12 inches tall, pinch out the growing tip to encourage more branches to develop.
If you don't want to grow your own plants, then buy poinsettia plants from a garden center each year. They will be grown under artificial light and heat conditions which will help them bloom the next summer.
Poinsettias may be kept year after year and will bloom each year if properly cared for. Withhold water gradually when the leaves begin to yellow or when the plant is no longer desirable as an ornamental. The bracts (the colorful leaves that grow just under the real blooms) will be the last to die. If you want to keep them looking their best, cut them back when they start to turn brown. Once they're cut back, there's no need to water them again until next spring.
Once cut back, water sparingly if at all during the dormant season. In the spring, give the plant some well-drained soil with phosphorus and potassium. That should be enough care for one year. If you want to keep it going, repeat every other year until its tenth season. Then move on to something new!
Poinsettias are tropical plants that like warm temperatures and dry air. In the winter, set them in a window where they can get sunlight but not direct sun. Or try growing them under lamps, although they don't do so well without light during that time of year.
They're also shallow-rooted plants that do best in well-drained soil that isn't too rich. They like their nutrients and moisture in balance. If you keep them on the dry side, they won't wilt like regular flowers would under similar conditions.
Poinsettias thrive in full autumn sun, and the bracts (colored leaves beneath the blooms) develop the richest color in bright light. While ventilation is essential, keep the plant free from drafts. Water regularly but not constantly, especially during dry spells, and feed every other month with high-nitrogen fertilizer.
The flowers are beautiful, but they're also toxic. Wear gloves when you pick them or use protective equipment such as goggles or a face shield. If you get any of the flowers on your clothing, wash it immediately in cold water.
Some people may experience stomach pain, diarrhea, or nausea after eating poinsettias. This is because the flower has alkaloids that can cause these effects. However, this only occurs if you eat some of the flowers; leaving any part of the plant behind when cleaning up after dinner helps prevent this from happening.
People at risk of developing allergies should not eat poinsettias because they might cause an allergic reaction. Keep all food away from children while feeding the plantings, and be sure to wash all dishes immediately after using them or else bacteria may grow.
Poinsettias are hardy plants that like plenty of water and regular feeding, but they'll also do fine with less if given the opportunity.