Poinsettia Care Tips
The Legend of the poinsettia
According to an old legend, a poor Mexican girl had no gift to present the Christ Child
on his birthday. As she walked to the chapel, her heart filled with sadness. Not knowing
what else to do, she gathered a handful of common weeds from the roadside and arranged
them into a small bouquet. She then looked at the scraggly bunch of weeds and felt
embarrassed by the humbleness of the offering. But, this was the only gift she could
offer. As she entered the chapel, she remembered the words of her cousin, "Even the
most humble gift, given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes". Her spirits began
to lift as she knelt down and laid the bouquet in front of the nativity scene. Suddenly,
the bouquet burst into blooms of brilliant red. All who saw this were certain they had
just seen a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. Through that miracle, the first
"Flower of the Holy Night" bloomed. This was the birth of the Poinsettia.
Medium light areas are best for poinsettias, but they will tolerate low light. Avoid
full sun to prevent burned leaves. Selecting a place out of direct sunlight, but that is
well lit, is best.
Place a saucer under the plant. Water when the soil surface becomes dry.
Keep at temperatures between 60-70º F.
Post holiday care
When the poinsettia's blooms age and lose their charisma, there's no reason to throw it
out. If you want to maintain your poinsettia beyond the Christmas season, you will need to
give it some attention on a regular basis. With proper care, dedication and a certain
amount of luck, you too can re-bloom your poinsettia!
In early April, cut the plant back to about 6 or 8 inches in height and place it
outside in the shade after all chance frost has passed and night temperatures average 55
degrees or above. Keep the plant watered and fertilize the poinsettia every 2-3 weeks.
Prune your poinsettia during the summer to keep plants bushy and compact. Late June or
early July is a good time for this step, but do not prune your plant later than Sept 1.
Bring the plant indoors before threat of cool weather.
Beginning in October, the plants should be kept in complete darkness for 14 continuous
hours at night. Put it in total darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night, keeping the
soil evenly moist and fertilize like you do your other houseplants until January. Cover
the plant with a black plastic bag to prevent any light from getting in but remove the bag
during the day. By mid-November, the bracts, the modified leaves that we all think of as
the flower, should start to show color. Keep on your long-night schedule, though.
During November and December, poinsettias require 6-8 hours of bright sunlight daily,
with night temperatures between 60-70 degrees F. Continue a normal watering and fertilizer
program. The correct amount of water is very important, poinsettias will not tolerate
moisture extremes. Do not keep the potting mix too wet or too dry. If allowed to dry out
too much, the plant will wilt and drop its leaves. Additionally, do not allow the
plant to remain in standing water. This could result in root rot, which will cause the
plant to decline. Carefully follow this regime for 8-10 weeks should result in a colorful
display of blooms for the holiday season!
The Poinsettias is NOT poisonous.
The widespread belief that poinsettias are poisonous is a misconception. Studies
conducted by the Ohio State University concluded that no toxicity was evident at
experimental ingestion levels far exceeding those likely to occur in a home environment.
Though, as with all ornamental plants, poinsettias are not intended for human or animal
consumption, and certain individuals may experience an allergic reaction to poinsettias.
In fact, in 1992, the poinsettia was included on the list of houseplants most helpful in
removing pollutants from indoor air. So, not only is the poinsettia a safe and beautiful
addition to your holiday decor, it can even help keep your air clean!
National Poinsettia Day
By an Act of Congress, December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day. The date marks the death in
1851 of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who is credited with introducing the native Mexican plant
to the United States. The purpose of this day is to enjoy the beauty of this popular
holiday plant. So, be sure to give someone you love a poinsettia on December 12, National