Every holiday season, we see a variety of plants decorating our homes: evergreens, ferns, orchids, and perhaps most notable of all, Poinsettias. The bright red flower-like leaves contrasted with deep green foliage make Poinsettias not only beautiful but also an unforgettable holiday decoration. Read on to learn more about Poinsettia care and how to add an unmissable decoration to your home this holiday season.
Although that beautiful, bright red is the shade most commonly associated with Poinsettias, there are also varieties displaying white, red, pink, variegated, and burgundy leaves.
Every December, you can expect any florist or garden center to be flush with Poinsettias waiting to be taken home. In order to make sure you are picking the best from the lot, check on the plant’s flowers. There should be small buds where the stem and leaves meet, but if you see yellow flowers instead, this isn’t the one for you. The presence of buds means the plant has not bloomed yet and therefore its prime has yet to happen (and you want to have it displayed in your home when the prime does come). Full flowers instead of buds indicate this plant is on its way out and may not last you long through the holiday season.
Once you choose your Poinsettia and bring it home, your plant will need a bit of TLC throughout the months. Make sure to place your potted Poinsettias in line of indirect light for roughly 6 hours each day to help aid their continued growth. Indirect light is best obtained by placing your plants near a north-facing or east-facing window or under a grow light. With proper care, your Poinsettia can live for months into the new year! If you want your Poinsettia to bloom next year, it should be in at least 14 hours of darkness each night for 6-10 weeks to encourage another bloom. Considering checking out our small LED grow lights; it can be adjusted to provide indirect light and comes with a timer to help keep track of light and dark hours!
As far as other care, these plants need to be watered only when the soil has gone dry. Overwatering will cause these plants to turn yellow, so err on the side of withholding water if you are unsure, and make sure that your pot has drainage holes to avoid waterlogging. Because Poinsettias do prefer humidity and our homes tend to get dry in the winter, mist your plant regularly to maintain its general moisture. Keep your plant at room temperature and away from any draughts. Do not fertilize these flowers while they are in bloom, but once they have surpassed their peak they can be fertilized once per week to elongate their lifecycle.
The Poinsettia is native to Central and South America and was brought to the US in 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett. The Poinsettia gets its common name from him, which is why Poinsettia is typically capitalized. Poinsettias were used by the Aztecs for cosmetic purposes and to create dyes, and they even used sap as medicine. This same sap, specifically from the red variety of the plant, is now known as latex! Originally, when these plants made their American debut at the Philadelphia Flower Show in the 1800s, they were sold as cut flowers, unlike today where we purchase and adore the plant in its entirety.
This flower from the Euphorbia family is a symbol of Christmas. It is believed this connection started with a Mexican legend about a young girl named Pepita.
Pepita did not have anything to present at church for Christmas so she picked a bouquet of weeds from the road as her gift. When she placed the weeds on the alter, they sprouted into the beautiful, red poinsettia we know today and this was seen as a miracle. From then on, Poinsettias were called the “Flores de Noche Buena” which translates to “Flowers of the Holy Night”.
The shape of the leaves is sometimes said to resemble the Star of Bethlehem, enhancing the connection beyond this legend.
As far as how to use your Poinsettia to compliment your home this Christmas season, there is no wrong way to display your plant. It is important to note these plants are moderately toxic to pets, so keep that in mind when choosing your Poinsettia placement. Depending on what size your plant is, Poinsettias can be placed on the kitchen table, atop the fireplace, or even under the Christmas tree!
If you want to deconstruct your Poinsettia and use the colorful “flowers” for independent decoration, here are a few ideas!
- Add them to the Christmas tree or a Christmas wreath for a pop of natural color
- Place them in a vase and use as a centerpiece
- Intertwine them with garland on the mantle
A tip: when using Poinsettia clippings, seal the stem to prevent the sap from leaking out onto your display. First, clip off the flower with the length of the stem you will want to use for decoration. To seal the stem, briefly hold the end over a small flame. Finally, you can place the stem in a flower tube with water to help prolong the life of your display!