Poinsettias

Christmas Lights 2012Christmas will be here before we know it. One of my favorite things to do for the Holidays is decorate my home.  I love to put lights outside on my house and put up a large Christmas Tree in my home, but another great holiday decoration is a Poinsettia.

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Poinsettias are houseplants in Nebraska as it prefers temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night, according to the University of Illinois Extension.  This plant is has dark green leaves and due to the fact that this is a member of the spurge family, it has a milky, white sap when the stems or leaves are broken.  The red “flowers” that are seen on poinsettias are actually bracts, which are modified leaves, and the flowers are actually the small, yellow centers to those red bracts.  Poinsettias can be purchased in many different colors including the traditional red, white, pink, or burgundy or varieties that have speckled or marbled colored bracts.

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

The care of a poinsettia, can be tricky as these plants tend to be particular about their care.

  • Make sure you do not water this plant until the soil has dried out, poinsettias do not like to set in water
  • Do not waiting until the plant wilts prior to watering again
  • Remove the plastic wrap immediately
  • Place it in an area where the plant will get indirect light for 6 hours a day
  • Keep the plant away from cold drafts
  • Keep it from touching a cold window
  • Do not fertilize poinsettias during the flowering period

If you plan to keep the poinsettia for next year, you have to take special care of it to get it to rebloom next year.

  • Starting in late September or early October, place the plant in a room of complete darkness or closet from 5pm to 8am daily.
  • Once the bracts begin to show color on them, in December, you can bring them out of the darkness period.
Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Poinsettias are commonly considered a poisonous plant, which is not true.  The milky sap can cause an allergic reaction in some people who come into contact with it, as is true with all plants in the spurge family.  Ohio State University did a research project that showed that a 50 pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have a harmful effect, which wouldn’t happen as the leaves have a bad taste.  They still should be kept out of reach of small children, as is the case with all houseplants.  This plant should be kept out of reach of pets though as the ingestion of the leaves can cause vomiting.  Poinsettias are the most common Christmas plant, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Poinsettias can be used to celebrate the holidays, celebrate Poinsettia Day, or to just enjoy as a plant blooming in December.  The care for these plants takes careful consideration from the person keeping it in their home, but with care, it can be beautiful.  It also doesn’t have to be a plant that blooms for the season and then goes in the trash.  If you get a poinsettia for the Holiday season this year, try to keep it around for next year and try to get it to rebloom, it can be done.

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