Poinsettia Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#22
Updated: Jan 1
Poinsettias are the classic holiday flower that everyone recognizes as the start of the most wonderful time of the year! These astounding houseplants are well known for their brilliant color, ranging in any color combination imaginable! BUT did you know, the color is from their leaves changing and the flower is actually the tiny yellow-looking stem in the middle of the bright leaves? The leaves that start to change color are called "bracts"
Botanical Name: Euphorbia pulcherrima (meaning "very beautiful")
Poinsettia are part of the the Euphorbiaceae Family.
Common Names: Poinsettia, Mexican Flame Leaf, Christmas Star
These guys are native to tropical rainforests of Mexico and Central America. They typically grow in a shrub like form that can reach around 15' tall and wide. It grows similarly to how a shrub like Serviceberry or Lilac grows around here (meaning the Midwest)! The colors traditionally found in Mexico or Central America are red and white but they have been hybridized like CRAZY to have many other colors and variegations. In their native habitat, in the months of April and May, the leaves are just plain green. The top leaves turn red once the winter days become shorter. Shorter days mean that the daylight spans only 12 hours or less (in this case, about 10 weeks). Once February and March hit, the leaves begin to drop but are soon replaced with brand new green leaves. As the plant matures, the bottom leaves will drop creating more of a shorter tree canopy.
Poinsettias are usually temporary houseplants for most of the world. They are notoriously hard to rebloom! But here is the info you need to try to get them to rebloom...
Water only when the top layer of soil is dry. Do not leave this plant in standing water. Making sure there is drainage will help prevent overwatering and standing water. Most of the time Poinsettias have that colored foil on the outside of the pot for decoration (which is very pretty) but can cause standing water! So make sure to empty that foil after you water! Increasing the humidity can help the overall health of the plant, but isn't necessary.
They thrive in bright indirect or filtered light. If you place it near a West or South window, that will be best. For the holidays, it is okay to shift them around for decoration though. It won't cause them to loose color or anything. Avoid putting them in a room that gets cooler than 60 degrees F and keep them at a consistent 65-75 degrees F. Usually people have their houses set to those temperatures, so you should be good!
This is where it gets complicated! If you want a nice green plant then you've got that year round! But the point of buying a Poinsettia is the color. Here is how to (hopefully) get yours to rebloom...
After it blooms in winter and looses its color (around March/April) let up on watering a bit. Allow more than just the top layer of soil to dry out before watering again.
Once spring rolls around (April/May) you want to cut them back about 4-6 inches and make sure some leaves are still present.
Once it gets warm enough in May or June, move your Poinsettia outside where it can get plenty of morning light.
Once new growth starts to emerge, begin using an all-purpose fertilizer or high phosphorus fertilizer.
If you want a fuller plant you can also pinch off the tips of the stem once in a while to create a much fuller plant. You can actually do this with flowering annuals during the summer as well!
If the plant is getting much bigger and the roots are becoming rootbound it will need to be repotted. This may not need to happen the first year.
Once the outdoor nighttime temperatures get close to 40 degrees F, move your plant inside where is can get many hours of continuous darkness. This is VERY important. It needs to be in about 14 hours of COMPLETE darkness (not lamps, TV light, grow light, etc.) and 10 hours of bright indirect, or filtered light, during the day.
After about 2 months of keeping the plant in the darkness you may start to see the leaves changing color and the flowers emerging at the top of the stems. *Keep in mind, if the plant was dyed when you bought it, the color may emerge differently the next year.* THIS is why the Poinsettia is considered a "temporary" houseplant for most people. It is much less work and not that expensive to just buy a new one.
Where the name came from... William Prescott named Euphorbia pulcherrima 'Poinsettia' after Joel Robert Poinsett who was the first US Ambassador to Mexico appointed by Andrew Jackson in the 1820's. He apparently found a Poinsettia shrub in the wild in Mexico and took a cutting back to South Carolina. This is how Poinsettias were introduced in the United States!
December 12 is National Poinsettia Day in the United States in honor of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Joel Robert Poinsett who first brought these beautiful plants to the United States
These are on the ASPCA's list of toxic plants for pets. It can cause irritation in the mouth and stomach with potential vomiting. Although they do also say Poinsettias are "generally over-rated in toxicity". As I researched a bit more, other sources claimed it can cause irritation, but it not poisonous. Apparently that is a big myth that has been proven otherwise. To be safe, I would just keep it out of reach of your pets! They are very sensitive to the cold so make sure to keep them out of drafty windows and doors. When you are purchasing a Poinsettia in a colder climate, make sure to wrap it up before taking it outside
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I have never tried to get a Poinsettia to rebloom but I am DEFINITELY going to try now for the 2021 holiday! I bought a red one with cream speckles, bright red, and one with pink and yellow/cream colored variegation. I know it is very difficult to rebloom but I think the key to success is moving them outside for the summer, a change in temperature and a change in lighting! Let me know in the comments if you've been able to do it successfully, and tell us if there are any tips you can share with everyone else! Happy Holidays, everyone!
Always written with extreme plant passion!