There are few plants more associated with Christmas than the colourful Poinsettia , which doubles as a decoration and a gift thanks to its glorious flowers – timed precisely for the festive season.
Here are some facts and figures about this classic houseplant:
Poinsettias are native to Mexico.
The Aztecs called the poinsettia Cuetlayochitl.
Chile and Peru called the poinsettia the “Crown of the Andes.”
In nature, poinsettias are a perennial flowering shrub that can grow to ten feet tall.
The showy coloured part of poinsettias that most people think are the flowers are actually coloured bracts (modified leaves).
The flowers or cyathia of the poinsettia are in the centre of the colourful bracts.
Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower.
Poinsettias are not poisonous.
A fresh poinsettia is one on which little or no yellow pollen is showing on the flower clusters in the centre of the bracts.
There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available.
Eighty percent of poinsettias are purchased by women.
Eighty percent of people who purchase poinsettias are 40 or older.
Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plant – and most are sold in a 6 week period.
The cost of a poinsettia is determined by the number of blooms.
The length of time your poinsettia will give you pleasure in your home is dependent on (1) the maturity of the plant, (2) when you buy it, and (3) how you treat the plant. With care, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks and some varieties will stay attractive for months.
After you have made your poinsettia selection, make sure it is wrapped properly because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes can damage the bracts and leaves.
Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place in a sunny window. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.
Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers or open doors and windows.
Ideally poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70F and night time temperatures around 55F. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible.
Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Water when soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water.
Fertilise the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertiliser once a month.
Selecting A Poinsettia
Poinsettias are traditional Christmas plants that will last through the Christmas season and beyond. It is important to select the best plant for your home environment. The following are a few selection pointers:
Choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line.
Choose bracts (modified leaves) that are completely coloured.
Do not purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges.
Do not choose plants with fallen or yellowed leaves.
The poinsettia should look full, balanced and attractive from all sides.
The plant should be 2 1/2 times taller than the diameter of the container.
Choose plants that are not drooping or wilting.
Do not purchase plants that are displayed in paper or plastic sleeves. Plants held in sleeves will deteriorate quickly.
Do not purchase plants that have been displayed or crowded close together. Crowding can cause premature bract loss.
Check the plant’s soil. If it’s wet and the plant is wilted, this could be an indication of root rot.
Check the poinsettia’s maturity. Check the true flowers which are located at the base of the coloured bracts. If the flowers are green or red-tipped and fresh looking the bloom will “hold” longer than if yellow pollen is covering the flowers.
When you take the poinsettia home, be sure to have it sleeved or covered when outdoor temperatures are below 50F.