Celebrate the season with poinsettias by Denny Schrock for BH&G Everyday Gardeners
While it may not rank up there with other major holidays of the season, this observance of a plant closely associated with the Christmas holidays is worth noting.
If you think of bright red bracts at the mention of this winter bloomer, you’re a traditionalist. There’s nothing wrong with that; almost 3/4 of poinsettia buyers prefer that color. But poinsettias are available in many more colors, now, from pink to white, creamy yellow, deep plum, and marbled and frosted bicolors.
The poinsettia was named for Joel Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, where the plant is native. The plant’s botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means “most beautiful euphorbia”.
Some shy away from this gorgeous flower because of a persistent, untrue rumor that the plant is poisonous. Research at Ohio State University has disproved this myth. Some people’s skin may be sensitive to the milky sap. However, eating the flowers is safe (but not recommended!).
Newer varieties of poinsettia are long lasting. Given bright light, warmth (average room temperature), and even moisture, the bracts should remain colorful for months. In tropical areas, poinsettia will grow into a large shrub. I remember a photo of my aunt and uncle next to a huge blooming poinsettia bush in front of their home in Nigeria. In temperate zones its usually easiest to simply discard the plant when it’s no longer attractive.
If you’re the type who likes a challenge, you can grow it on and try to bring it back into bloom next year. You’ll need to give the plant 14 hours or so of uninterrupted darkness each night beginning in late September in order to ensure bloom by the holidays. If you’re unsuccessful, you can always buy a can of spray paint.
To find out about other Christmas plants, visit Costa Farms.