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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Poinsettias

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

We are surrounded by beautiful poinsettias right now so here are some interesting tidbits about them:

  1. Poinsettia, botanically Euphorbia Pulcherrima, is named for Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S minister to Mexico.  He was an avid amateur botanist who, in the 1820’s, sent home to South Carolina cuttings of a beautiful plant he’d seen in bloom.  By the early 1920’s the poinsettia had become a holiday fixture here.
  2. The poinsettia, known in Mexico as Flor de Noche Buena or Flower of Christmas Eve, has been associated with Christmas since the 16th century.
  3. Over 34 million poinsettias are sold every year—that makes up about one-fourth of all blooming plants sold!
  4. In the wild, poinsettias grow 12 to 15 feet tall with leaves around 6 to 8 inches across.
  5. The beautiful brightly colored flowers of poinsettias are not flowers at all, but “bracts”—brightly colored leaves.  The true flowers are the little yellow fuzzy things in the middle.
  6. Poinsettias can be tricky to bloom again because they are photo-periodic—meaning they need a period of 12 to 16 hours of total darkness every day for a couple of months before they will bloom.  Street lights shining in a window, the flickering light from a television, even a light turning on, then off can interrupt this cycle. Around the first of September, move them into a closet or cover them with a box from five at night until eight in the morning. From eight in the morning until five at night, keep in a sunny window. If you are fortunate to have a spare room with a sunny exposure put them in the sunny window, shut the bedroom door and DO NOT OPEN the door in the evening at all.  Be sure there are NO street lights, security lights, or neighbor’s porch lights that shine in the window at night as this will interrupt the cycle.  Continue the short-day/long-night treatment until the top leaves begin to turn color.
  7. There is an urban legend that says poinsettias are highly toxic, however, An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study of over 22,000 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers not only showed no fatalities but that most cases didn’t even result in medical treatment! According to POISINDEX (the primary source used by Poison Control Centers), a 50-pound child would actually have to eat around 500 leaves to have a toxic reaction.  It’s still best to discourage pets and children from tasting it as it can cause nausea and diarrhea.  If you have sensitive skin or a latex allergy, however, the sap can cause contact dermatitis.

To keep your poinsettia looking its best, keep it in a well-lit location.  Do not let the poinsettia wilt from lack of water, but do allow the soil surface to dry on top before you add water. If it came wrapped in foil, poke holes in the bottom so excess water can escape.

After blooming, once the colored bracts begin to drop, cut the plants back some to encourage branching.  You can, if desired, place poinsettias outside around the middle of May until the first of September when you move them inside for the short day/long night treatment.

We have a great selection of this traditional holiday flower (and even some not-so-traditional new colors) so come in and enjoy the Christmas scenery!

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