How to Care for Your Holiday Poinsettias
Poinsettias are the most popular holiday plant available. They are the most commonly sold house plant even though they are sold only during a short holiday season.
Poinsettias were originally only available in red. They now come in beautiful shades of burgundy, pinks, creams, and whites. Choosing the right poinsettia and caring for it properly will help it stay beautiful throughout the entire holiday season.
Choosing a plant
When you choose a poinsettia, look for a healthy looking plant that is full of leaves. The green leaves should be present all the way down to the soil line. Avoid plants that appear to be dropping leaves.
The colorful part of the plant is not the true flower. These are called bracts or modified leaves. The true flower is found in the centers of these bracts. For a longer lasting plant, choose one that does not have any open flowers.
Take care when you are transporting the poinsettia. Even a little exposure to cold temperatures can cause damage to the plant. Make sure it is well wrapped for protection from the harsh winter elements.
It can be easy to over-water or under-water your poinsettia plants. Both will result in leaf drop. Make sure the potting medium in your poinsettia plant is dry about half way down before you add more water. Do not get water on the leaves to prevent unsightly white spots.
When you water the plant, remove foil wraps or other decorative containers so the plant does not become water logged. Alternatively, you can poke holes in the wraps so that the water runs out. Either way, make sure the water is able to run out through the bottom of the container and the plant is not sitting in any puddles. If the poinsettia stays soggy too long, it could succumb to root rot before the season is over.
Poinsettias look their best when they are kept the right temperature. 65-70 F is the ideal temperature for the daytime. Cooler temperatures down to 60 F at night are also helpful for the plant. Do not put your plants too close to drafty windows or allow them to touch cold windows as this could damage the leaves. Poinsettias do not tolerate warm, dry drafts either. Place them well away from any heating vents or radiators.
Poinsettias prefer plenty of bright, indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves. Six hours of light a day is recommended for a healthy plant.
One advantage of poinsettia plants is that they do not require extra humidity. The average humidity levels in a home or office should be sufficient for most plants.
You only need to fertilize a poinsettia if you intend to keep it beyond the holiday season. A regular indoor plant fertilizer will work. You should not fertilize the plant while it is flowering.
A Common Myth
Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. They do not cause any harm when ingested. The sap found inside the stems and leaves may cause some skin irritation on people who are sensitive to latex. Poinsettias can also cause mild stomach irritation when ingested by cats or dogs.
Poinsettias can last up to eight weeks when they are well taken care of. Providing the right temperature and the right amount of water are the most significant factors when caring for a poinsettia.
What challenges do you run into when caring for a poinsettia?
“The Poinsettia Pages” University of Illinois Extension.
“Poinsettias” Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Michigan.
Image: “Pale Poinsettia” by Sheila in Moonducks
Image: “White Poinsettia” by Liz West
Featured image by Tim Good via https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenakedalien/11085549974/
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