The holidays are upon us and there’s no other plant that we identify with the season quite like the beautiful poinsettia.
Once there’s a chill in the air and the Christmas decorations start filling store shelves, rows of poinsettias are quick to follow. Before long, homes are alive with the festive, vibrant red, white and green along with any manner of variation in between, lasting well into the New Year.
This Holiday Season, give your poinsettia a boost!
While we don’t carry poinsettias in store, we LOVE dressing up the festive flowers that you’ve bought elsewhere. The typical presentation is the simple pot with red or gold foil… not a whole lot else.
Inspire is happy to “boost” your poinsettia, replenishing the soil and providing a presentation that is just right for your decor or event. Be sure to contact us for more information!
Meantime, here is a little background on the popular and festive plant as well as instruction for care if you want to see your plant flourish into the New Year and beyond:
While we assume this lively plant as part of annual Holiday celebration, we don’t give much thought to how it became so ubiquitous. In fact, the plant we know today as the poinsettia has long and interesting history.
Native to Central America, the plant flourished in an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon. The Aztecs appreciated the plant for it’s decorative application, but it also provided a practical purpose. They extracted a purplish dye for use in textiles and cosmetics from the plant’s bracts. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.
Had it not been for the efforts of Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851), the poinsettia may have remained simply a regional plant for many years to come. The son of a French physician, Poinsett was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829) by President Madison. While he had attended medical school, his real love in the scientific field was botany. (Mr. Poinsett later founded the institution which we know today as the Smithsonian Institution).
Poinsett maintained his own hothouses on his Greenville, South Carolina plantations, and while visiting the Taxco area in 1828, he became enchanted by the brilliant red blooms he saw there. He immediately sent some of the plants back to South Carolina, where he began propagating the plants, gifting them to friends and donating to botanical gardens.
Among the recipients of Poinsett’s work was John Bartram of Philadelphia, who in turn gave the plant over to another friend, Robert Buist, a Pennsylvania nurseryman. Mr. Buist is thought to be the first person to have sold the plant under its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima. It is thought to have become known by its more popular name of poinsettia around 1836, the origin of the name recognizing the man who first brought the plant to the United States.
Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day which commemorates the date of his death in 1851. The day was meant to honor Poinsett and encourage people to enjoy the beauty of the popular holiday plant.
There’s a lovely tale told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at a Christmas Eve service. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.
In an effort to console his cousin, Pedro said to her, “I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes” .
Unsure of what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.
As she approached the altar, she remembered Pedro’s kind words: “Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.
From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season and thus, the legend of the poinsettia was born.
Caring for Your Poinsettia
Find a spot that enjoys indirect sunlight for at least six hours each day. If direct sun can’t be avoided, diffuse the light with a shade or sheer curtain.
Keep room temperature 20° C. Consider that if you are comfortable, very likely, so is your poinsettia.
When the soil feels dry to the touch, water. Be sure to remove your plant from any decorative container before watering, and allow the water to drain completely.
Fertilize your plant AFTER THE BLOOMING SEASON with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer.
DO NOT place plants near cold drafts or excessive heat. Try to keep away from appliances, fireplaces or ventilating ducts.
DO NOT expose plants to temperatures below 10° C. Poinsettias are sensitive to cold, so indoors only during winter months.
DO NOT overwater or allow it to sit in standing water.
Want to Re-bloom Your Poinsettia? Try this:
When the poinsettia’s bracts age and lose their aesthetic appeal, you don’t have to throw it out! With proper care and commitment you too actually re-bloom your poinsettia.
By late March or early April, cut your poinsettia back to about 8″ in height. Continue a consistent watering schedule, and fertilize your plant with a good, balanced all-purpose fertilizer. By the end of May, hopefully, your effort will be rewarded and you should see new growth.
As it gets warmer, place your plants outdoors, where they can enjoy spring and summer warmth. Be careful that all chance of frost has passed and night temperatures average 12° C or above. Continue with regular watering during this growth period, and fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks.
You many need to prune as summer progresses to keep your plant compact and bushy. Late June or early July is a good time for this step, but be sure not to prune your plant later than September 1st. Keep the plants in indirect sun and water regularly.
Around June 1, you may transplant your poinsettia into a larger pot. Select a pot no more than 4 inches larger than the original pot. A soil mix with a considerable amount of organic matter, such as peat moss or leaf mold, is highly recommended.
The poinsettia is a photoperiodic plant, meaning that it sets bud and produces flowers as the Autumn nights lengthen. Poinsettias will naturally come into bloom during November or December, depending on the flowering response time of the individual cultivar. Timing to produce blooms for the Christmas holiday can be difficult outside of the controlled environment of a greenhouse. Stray light of any kind, such as from a street light or household lamps, could delay or entirely halt the re-flowering process.
Starting October 1st, the plants must be kept in complete darkness for 14 continuous hours each night. Do this by moving the plants to a totally dark room, or by covering them overnight with a large box. During October, November and early December, poinsettias require 6 – 8 hours of bright sunlight daily, with night temperatures between 15 – 22° C. Note that temps outside of this range could also delay or prohibit flowering.
Continue the normal watering and fertilizer program. If you can follow this regime for 8 to 10 weeks you should enjoy another round of colourful blooms just in time for the Holidays next year!