Caring for Poinsettia Plants

The poinsettia is perhaps the flower most associated with Christmas.  This tradition seems to have originated in South and Central America, where the poinsettia was a favorite flower of the Aztecs.  It later became associated with Christmas in Mexican culture due to its bright red color.  In the early 1800s, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, saw the flowers on a Christmas altar and asked to take some poinsettia seeds back home with him.  He then grew poinsettias for local churches to use on Christmas.  When he first started passing around flowers, people referred to them as Poinsett’s plants, which later was shortened to poinsettia.

Unlike bouquets of cut flowers, which will last several weeks if taken care of, poinsettias can actually last months!  However, you have to be very careful that these flowers do not get exposed to the cold.  Here are a few tips for taking care of a poinsettia:

•    Poinsettias only need about six hours of light a day. Bright, indirect sunlight is the best.

•    Make sure the plant doesn’t touch a cold window.  Even a little exposure to the cold can damage the plant.

•    Don’t place the poinsettia anywhere where it will get hit by a draft, hot or cold.  Heat from a radiator or heating vent can be just as damaging as a draft of cold wind coming in the door.

•    Poinsettias thrive in daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a nighttime temperature of 55 degrees.  Higher temperatures will make the plant wilt sooner, so you may want to move it to a cooler area at night if you can.

•    Give your poinsettia some plant fertilizer once a month, but don’t fertilize it when it’s blooming.

•    Water the poinsettia only when the soil is dry.  Also, make sure excess water can drain out of the soil so that the plant doesn’t get too much water.  Once the excess water drains out, be sure to empty the saucer.  Don’t let the poinsettia sit in water.

•    If your home is fairly dry, you may want to use a mister on your poinsettia.  They are tropical flowers and love humid conditions.

•    Poinsettias tend to be susceptible to whitefly infestation.  If you see tiny white spots on the plant that fly off when you move the poinsettia, your plant is infested.  Some insecticidial soap or indoor pesticide will get rid of them.

That’s about all there is to it!  If your diligent, your poinsettia might even last all year round, although there’s no guarantee that it will bloom again next Christmas (they’re finicky like that!).

Need a poinsettia or other holiday bouquet?  We’ve got a large selection of Christmas flowers in Washington, DC.

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