Poinsettias add holiday cheer

Published 5:05 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

Poinsettias can be more than just December decor. With proper selection and care, they can be a year round plant. Photo by Jodi Marze

Poinsettias can be more than just December decor. With proper selection and care, they can be a year round plant.
Photo by Jodi Marze

The poinsettia has a rich history and has come to be known as an icon of the holiday season. They even have their own day. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.

The plant, which hails from Mexico and Central America, became known as poinsettia after the United States Minister of Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett, introduced it to the U.S. in 1825.

With careful selection and proper care, your poinsettias can last much longer than the holiday season.

“One common myth is that they are deadly poisonous, but it is mainly the sap that has a mild toxin,” Crosby Arboretum Director Pat Drackett said. “They truly do not have to be a throw away Christmas decoration if they are chosen carefully and given proper care.”

According to Mississippi State Extension information successful poinsettia care begins with selection. They recommend selection of plants with the following characteristics:

  • Choose plants with dark green foliage covering the stem and extending to the soil line of the plant.
  • Choose brightly colored bracts (modified leaves) with the yellow flowers either unopened or partially opened.
  • There should be no wilting, discoloration or fading on the plant.
  • Avoid plants with single-stemmed blooms and do not branch. They do not reflower well and cannot be expected to give new blooms.
  • Choose plants with a ration of being 2 ½ times taller that the diameter of the container.
  • There should be no evidence of pests on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Plants need a range of temperatures between 68 to 72 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 degrees during the night.

Once the plant has been selected it should be placed in a well- lighted location, which will allow ample indirect light. Avoid drafts, overwatering and allowing leaves to touch windowpanes where temperatures will cause damage. Make sure the plant has proper drainage.