Poinsettia …The Christmas Plant…..Part 1

The Christmas Poinsettia    

Red Poinsettia    Poinsettia have become the plant of choice for the Christmas season.  These colorful Christmas plants are sold everywhere from high quality florists to chain stores. The quality and price differential is huge but there is a poinsettia for everyone. It hard to miss this Christmas plant no matter where you go.

     Companies send poinsettia as gifts to their clients, suppliers and staff. They decorate their offices and the entrance lobby or reception. They might use several for their Christmas party and even donate some to deserving places. Almost every home will have a poinsettia. It might be one they bought themselves or it might a gift from afar delivered by the local FTD florist.

    Red poinsettia are the all time favorites but other colors are beautiful too. White poinsettia seem to the second most popular although a distant second to red. There are peach and pink varieties and several bi-color ones too. Every year several new varieties are brought to market in many colors and shades.

What is the Poinsettia Flower?

    It is often thought that the colored bracts at the top of the poinsettia are the flowers. Of course, this is not the case at all. The bracts at the top are actually modified leaves and were green up until the time coloration was initiated by short days. The actual flower is at the center of these bracts and appear as small yellow clusters with reddish tips when young.

   Poinsettia flowering is “photo-induced’ meaning the flowers start to show when the days are short and the nights are long. This may occur naturally in many areas in the months running up to Christmas. However, most greenhouse growers use progressive shading to provide 12 to 14 hours of very dark night time hours. This sets the blooming process and the upper leaves turn color and become bracts with the yellow flower at the center.

How to look after poinsettia

   White PoinsettiaThe most important aspect with any plant is watering and poinsettia like to kept moist but never wet. How do you know when to water your poinsettia?  The soil should be dry to the touch and the plant will be very light in weight when you lift it. Should the plant become too dry, the leaves will droop and the whole plant will begin to assume a wilted look. If you act in time, the plant will recover. The best way to water as with many plants is to soak it thoroughly and then allow all excess water to drain off. Most, if not all poinsettia will come in a pot with drainage holes.  Be sure to remove all excess water from the saucer after watering. Do not let the plant stand in water. This may require removing water from the saucer more than once. Fertilizer is not required during the blooming period.

   Poinsettia hate excessive drafts and large temperature swings.  Ideally, they love a night time temperature of 60F and 72 degrees during the day. Poinsettia need at least 6 hours of indirect light during the day. Modern homes and offices are quite suitable for this hardy plant. It is best to locate the plant away from cold doorways and heat registers.

  Temperature swings, over-watering, under-watering and lack of light are often sure ways to shorten the life of a poinsettia plant.

How to choose your poinsettia

    High quality plants will have dark green leaves and completely colored bracts. Ideal poinsettia plants are full and even from all directions.  The plant should be 2 to 3 times taller than the pot it grows in. Look for plants that are not mature. The center of the bract will be greenish and red tipped. More mature plants will display an open yellow center with no red tips.  Plants exhibiting younger blooms will of course last longer.

    Avoid plants with yellow leaves or broken stems. Like wise plants that are soggy and wet are not likely to last very well. Dry wilted plants are not desirable either.  Poinsettia should not be left in paper or plastic sleeves. Carefully remove sleeves by tearing the paper away so as not to damage the plant.