Yesterday – The History and Legend of the Poinsettia
Joel Robert Poinsett, who was an amateur botanist and the first ambassador to Mexico, first introduced poinsettias to the United States in 1825 when he brought some cuttings to his plantation in Greenwood, South Carolina. When Poinsett died in 1851, December 12 was declared Nationnal Poinsettia Day, an official day set aside to enjoy this symbol of holiday cheer.
Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where they grow wild. The enchanting legend of the poinsettia dates back several centuries, to a Christmas Eve in Mexico when a little girl named Pepita had no gift to present to the Christ child.
Her cousin Pedro urged her to give a humble gift. So, on her way to church she gathered some weeds she found along the road. As she approached the altar, a miracle happened: The weeds blossomed into brilliant flowers. Then they were called Flores de Noche Buena – Flowers of the Holy Night. Now they are called poinsettias.
Today – Enjoying Your Poinsettia During the Christmas Holiday
Poinsettias are a versatile decorative staple, perfect for use at home on the table or in front of the hearth. At work, poinsettias make beautiful stand-alone decorative accents in long hallways, simply placed on a desk, or filling the foyer with bright red and green. And they are perfect to send home with employees just before the Christmas holiday.
Poinsettias complement almost any holiday decor because of their classic vibrant red and green colors. They can be placed on the floor, on accent tables or on the dining room sidebar. Any interior space that needs just a touch more holiday can be celebrated with a poinsettia or two. Because they are so traditional, we immediately think of the holidays when we see them. And more than 50 million poinsettias are expected to be sold this holiday season!
Choosing Your Poinsettia: (Or let your florist choose a healthy poinsettia for you!)
- Inspect the bracts. Bracts are modified leaves and are the colored portion of the poinsettia plant. Bracts should have good color, a mature shape and not have a great deal of green along the edges.
- Examine the leaves. Rich, dark green foliage is a sign of health in poinsettia plants. Make sure the leaves are plentiful and are growing down the length of the stem.
- Note the size of the pot. The poinsettia should be growing in a container appropriate for the plant. The accepted guideline is that the poinsettia should be approximately 2 1/2 times the diameter of the pot.
- Check the soil. Stick your finger in the soil and test the moisture. Avoid plants with soggy soil and appear to be wilting. This could be a sign of over watering and possibly root rot. Poinsettia soil should be moist and only allowed to become dry to a depth of 1/2 inch.
- Observe how the poinsettias are being displayed. Be cautious of poinsettia that are displayed in plastic sleeves or crowded together. They need space and crowding can cause the plant to loose bracts.
- Evaluate the poinsettia’s general appearance. The poinsettia should appear full from all angles, without bare spots. The stems should be erect and leaves and bracts do not appear wilted. If leaves or bracts fall from the poinsettia when you pick it up, choose another plant.
Keeping Your Family and Pets Safe – The Poinsettia Toxicity Myth
The poinsettia is widely tested as a consumer plant, proving the myth about the popular holiday plant to be false:
- Scientific research from The Ohio State University has proved the poinsettia to be non-toxic to both humans and pets. All parts of the plant were tested, including the leaves and sap.
- According to POISINDEX, the national information center for poison control centers, a child would have to ingest 500-600 leaves in order to exceed the experimental doses that found no toxicity.
- A study from the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University found that out of 22,793 reported poinsettia exposures there was essentially no toxicity significance of any kind. The study used national data collected by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
- As with any non-food product, however, the poinsettia is not meant to be eaten and can cause varying degrees of discomfort; therefore, the plant should be kept out of the reach of young children and curious pets.
Tomorrow – Poinsettia Care Tips
Poinsettias are long-lasting blooming plants. To keep your poinsettia blooming all year long, follow the care tips listed below:
To keep the poinsettia blooming:
- When surface soil is dry to the touch, water thoroughly. Discard excess water in the saucer.
- To prolong color, keep a temperature range of 60 degrees for night and 72 degrees for day.
- High humidity is preferable.
- Place plant away from hot or cold drafts, and protect from cold winds.
To rebloom for the next season:
- During winter, continue to follow holiday upkeep tips.
- March 1 (St. Patrick’s Day): When bracts fade, cut stems back to eight inches above soil line.
- Continue to water regularly.
- Lightly fertilize with a balanced all-purpose plant food every three to four weeks.
- When temperatures are warm, place plant outdoors; first in indirect, then direct sunlight.
- Avoid temperatures below 50 degrees throughout the summer.
- July 4 (Independence Day): Cut back new growth stems. Repot if needed.
- Early September (Labor Day): Move plant inside. Provide six ormore hours of direct light.
- October 1 through December: Confine plant to complete darkness for 14 hours, giving it 10 hours of natural light daily. This will set the buds and cause bracts to color.
MyFlorist is a proud provider of poinsettias and holiday flowers in the Washington DC Metro. Deck the halls, decorators!