Did you know, the poinsettia plant actually has its own official day of the year which is December 12 th. The House of Representatives passed a resolution back in 2002 honoring Paul Ecke Jr., known as the father of the poinsettia trade, in conjunction with the death of Joel Robert Poinsett.
Joel Poinsett was an American botanist, physician and minister to Mexico in the early 1800s. He was the first ambassador to Mexico who discovered this plant and actually took cuttings and shipped them to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. He was fascinated with this red flower and sent many clippings to friends and family. The poinsettia plant is named after him as a tribute to his discovery.
Little did he know back then what an impact this plant would have on the Christmas season. Today more than 35 million plants are commercially grown according to the USDA Floriculture statistics of 2018. It is the highest selling potted plant produced yearly capturing more than 25% of the market of all potted plants. In economic terms, that's over 150 million dollars a year.
Poinsettias come in many different colors and varieties from standard red, white and pinks to varied combinations with speckles, splashes and marbled colors. Over 6,200 varieties exist with approximately 150 varieties that are commercially grown. To add more interest to the color palette of poinsettias, a plant friendly dye or paint has been developed to give us combinations which would make Picasso's head spin. From blues, to yellows, to burgundy and purples, the imagination is the only limit to creating a myriad of rainbow colors. Our artists create amazing colors and even add a sparkle to the flowers by adding a few shakes of glitter to the plants.
The poinsettia is also known as the Christmas Star, Christmas Flower, Mexican Flame Leaf, Lobster Flower or Lobster plant, Winter Rose, Flores de Nochebuena ("Flowers of the Holy Night"), Crown of the Andes and Easter Plant.
Legend has it, in Mexico, a child with no means to obtain a gift, picked weeds from a side of the road and placed them on the church altar on Christmas Eve. As the congregation watched, the weeds turned into brilliant red and green flowers.
Poinsettias are NOT poisonous. If digested by animals or children, they may cause stomach discomfort or irritation. Also the sap from stems may cause skin irritation to some. If you are sensitive to latex, try to avoid contact with sap.
Care for poinsettias is relatively easy. Place in a bright sunny location in your home or business. It is extremely important to keep plants from hot or cold drafts. Poinsettias like to be kept moist but not soggy. As soil begins to dry, water thoroughly. If your pot is covered in foil or a container with no drainage holes, be sure to remove it before you water. Never let your poinsettias sit in water for any length of time. Do not fertilize poinsettia plants while plants are in bloom.
Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 60-70 degrees. It is very important when transporting poinsettias to have them sleeved and kept in a warm car. Exposure to cold outside temperature for even a minute or two can freeze or chill the plant causing leaf drop. It is best once purchased to take straight home or its final destination. Once home remove the protective sleeve. If you are traveling or planning on being away from your home, try a new product called, "Vacation". Vacation is an anti-drought plant treatment which puts the plant into a drought resistant mode for up to two weeks. Vacation will work on all plants and is a great product. Add it to your cut tree and reduce water needs significantly for up to 4 weeks.
If you cut your poinsettias for use in a flower arrangement, make sure you leave at least 4" of stem. Seal ends of stem by dipping in boiling water or holding over a flame for 15 seconds.
To get your poinsettia to rebloom next year, trim it back to 8-10 inches in April. Fertilize regularly with 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer. You may place outdoors to grow once nights stay above 55 degrees consistently. Another trimming in June will be helpful to keep the plant bushy. You may also consider transplanting to a larger pot size. Once October 1 st rolls around, poinsettias need 12-14 hours of darkness every day for 8-10 weeks. Place them in a room with no additional artificial light whatsoever. Some will tell you to put it in a closet or cover with a box, the key is to avoid street lights or lamps. The change of the seasons will do the work for you. You should see colorful blooms by Christmas..
J.R. Pandy, The No "B.S." Gardener
Pandy's Garden Center