The poinsettia which is native to Mexico has become a popular Christmas and holiday plant grown indoors, mainly for the attractive red flower heads and green foliage. The beginnings of this shrub becoming a Christmas plant is said to date back to the 16th century from a tale about a young girl that collected weeds and placed them in front of a church alter, which bloomed in to poinsettias.
This plant is so popular in the US that December 12th is national poinsettia day and they can be bought from many types of stores.
Leaves and flowers: The flower head is made up of the red bracts with small yellow flowers in the center of the head. The bracts look the same lobed leaf shape as the dark green leaves, but just different in color. It's the bract rather than the flowers that make this an attractive ornamental plant. Although, the red bract variety is the most popular, a grower can also find pink, whites and pale cream colored varieties.
The flowers (bract) usually last for about 2-6 months after being purchased. When buying a plant check the small yellow flowers have not opened yet, so your have a longer flowering period. If they're opened already your likely to get much less time with flowers.
After flowering: After the euphorbia pulcherrima has flowered and the leaves fall - that is the end of this wonderful looking shrubs life, unless you have the time and patience to get it re-flowering again for the following Christmas.
Re-flowering: Here is the basic steps for encouraging this plant to bloom again, which is not easy.
April - May: Cut back all the stems (once the bract and leaves have started to fall) to approximately 4 inches in length, water less and allow the soil to become dry with the plant sitting in a cool shady spot (60F°/15°C - 65F°/18°C) . This should to be done in the month of April – May.
May - Sept: During May re-pot and replace most of the old potting mix, then begin watering. Water thoroughly once the soil becomes dry and feed every 4 weeks until September. The pot can be slightly bigger if the roots are becoming bound to the old pot. During this period prune the new growth so you have only 4-5 strong stems and 1-3 leaves on each of them.
Oct - Nov: At the end of September is when light control is very important. The poinsettia will now need to be covered for 14hrs a day (from about 6pm - 8am) with a black plastic box or bag. This will need to be done daily for 8 weeks. During the day place the plant on a brightly lit windowsill or near, and continue normal watering and feeding.
December: Yippe...you can now stop artificial light reduction, should see buds appearing and it may have grew a bit taller. Begin normal care and attention from now and stop fertilizing until February.
|Origin:||Mexico and Central America.|
|Names:||Poinsettia, (common). Euphorbia Pulcherrima (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 18" (45cm).|
|Poisonous for pets:||Toxic to cats and dogs.|
|Temperature:||Average temperatures from 65 - 75°F (18 - 24°C) and no less than 55°F (13°C) are fine during the flowering season. Follow the guidelines above on re-flowering after March.|
|Light:||A brightly lit spot near a window is needed. Avoid direct sunlight during summer if your hoping the plant will produce flowers again.|
|Watering:||Watering thoroughly once the soil begins to dry to the touch, is suggested. Watering with distilled or rain water, that's tepid is advised. Do not allow the plant to sit in water within its tray because this may cause root rot (remove excess water).|
|Soil:||If you plan to re-pot after the flowering season then use a potting mix that contains peat moss, perlite and vermiculite or similar.|
|Re-Potting:||Re-pot if your plant roots become pot bound in a pot a couple of inches bigger from May - June.|
|Fertilizer:||A balanced fertilizer should be used about once every 4 weeks from February - November, with a balanced liquid solution|
|Humidity:||Normal room humidity should be fine and mist the the leaves often, during the flowering season.|
|Propagation:||Propagate the poinsettia plant with stem cuttings at the beginning of summer and use rooting hormone.|