by, Jo Carol Hebert
The plant we call the Poinsettia is native to Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs called this plant, Cuetlaxochitl, meaning ‘mortal flower that perishes and withers’.
That civilization of early Mexico used the plant to dye clothes and cure illnesses. Later, Joel Poinsett became the first ambassador from America to Mexico. He discovered the plant and introduced it’s unique loveliness to the United States.
Let’s learn more about this holiday favorite!
Did You Know?
- December 12th is Poinsettia Day, named after (and honoring) Joel Poinsett.
- Poinsettias can grow up to 16 feet.
- Flowers are the yellow blooms in the center of the plant.
- 36,000,000 pots of Poinsettias are sold each year in the U.S
- Poinsettias grow in many colors, including white, blue, red, pink, gold, and apricot.
The Christmas tree is back in the attic or adorns the trash can. Ribbons, bows and wrapping papers are saved or recycled. But, what will you do with that beautiful Poinsettia before the leaves begin to wither?
Many foliage-challenged people, after the initial joy of receiving the annual beauty, will toss it out.
But, you can try to preserve it for next year.
Christmas Poinsettia Aftercare
Tips on Keeping It Alive
January Through March
- Remove pot wrapping.
- Water to keep roots moist.
- Place in indirect lighting.
- Prune stems back to 6”.
- Pinch off ‘flowers’. This forces the plant to get ‘bushy’.
- Let the soil dry before watering.
- Fertilize once a month.
- Continue routine care and watch new green leaves emerge.
- Re-pot in a larger container with rich organic soil.
- Water more frequently.
- Move to a sunny spot.
Summer to September
- Allow strong sunlight.
- Continue routine cultivation.
Assuming that your carefully-attended plant is still alive in October, here is the secret of how to make the leaves turn red for Christmas/2020. The red leaves are formed by the amount of light and dark. The red leaves are called ‘bracts,’ modified leaves.
How to Have a ‘Red’ Thumb
- Put the pot in a totally dark closet for 14 hours a day.
- Put the pot in a sunny spot for 10 hours a day.
- Alternate this routine faithfully for 8 weeks before you are ready to display the plant.
- Put a bowl of water in the closet for humidity.
Friends and family will be amazed to see last year’s Poinsettia alive and well! But, don’t worry if your plant doesn’t survive. There is no guilt here. Poinsettias are very difficult to preserve.
Enjoy the bright presence of your Christmas Flower and the memory of Christmas 2019 as the year begins anew.
If you want to try and preserve your family’s holiday poinsettia, print out the instructions and keep them handy – Christmas Poinsettia After-Care pdf