Posted by Gardening Felix | Posted in Indoor Gardening | Posted on 18-12-2012
Poinsettias are one of THE plants (besides holly, mistletoe and Christmas cactus) associated with Christmas, which is no wonder: Their bright, colored leaves – which in fact are not petals but bracts that attract insects – look like a bright star. As you can get poinsettias in different varieties of colors, you can match these christmas plants them perfectly with the rest of your holiday decoration. Of course, the most often seen color is a bright red.
Introduced to the states in 1825 by U.S. Ambassador Joel Poinsett, poinsettias originally come from Mexico where they’re popular as christmas plants as well. They belong to the spurge family and are “short day plants”, which means that they bloom if there are less than twelve hours of daylight. The reason for this is that they get less competition of pollinating insects from other plants this way.
Choosing the right poinsettias as christmas plants
If you’re getting poinsettias just now from a gardening centre or a specialist, have a close look at the plants and try to notice if there are any pests or mildew on the plant (which happens quite often if you get them from packed places). You best also check if there are disease symptoms at other plant near the one of your choice.
To get healthy flowers that keep their pretty leaves for some time, look for plants with smaller, clustered buds in the center. The buds should be green-ish and yet unopened! Best pick a plant with undamaged and crisp foliage (as an indicator of good care).
How to care for poinsettias
If you have poinsettias at home and want to display them as christmas plants, you can trigger their bloom for the holiday season by reducing the daylight hours they get: Keep them at a bright spot until about 10 weeks before Christmas and then keeping them in total darkness for more than 12 hours a day (by using a box as cover or putting them in a closed compartment).
When the blooming period ends (between march and April), you should then decrease the watering to simulate the natural cycle (of dry summers in Mexico). Increase the watering later in summer in conjunction with fresh soil for new nutrients.
You should prune poinsettias each year during summer. If you decrease the number of branches, this will create a more shrubby look with big flowers. poinsettias generally prefer humid conditions; you should however be careful to let te plants soil dry between watering and not to let them stand in water (as moisture around the roots can kill them). As the plants need a lot of brightness, it’s best to place them close to a south-facing window.