Keeping Your Poinsettia Lively with Mike Darcy

There is probably no other plant or flower that is so closely associated with a holiday as the Poinsettia is to the Christmas season. Today the Poinsettia is the best selling potted flowering plant in the United States with about 34 million being sold in a six-week window leading up to Christmas. Red is by far the most popular color but there are also shades of pink, cream and white. An interesting note is that the colorful part of the plant is actually not the flower but bracts or modified leaves. The flower is a small yellow bud clustered in the center of the bracts.

I always enjoy learning some history about plants and the Poinsettia is no exception. It is a native of southern Mexico where at one time it was considered a weed. In 1818, Dr. Joel Poinsett, who was an amateur botanist and the first United States ambassador to Mexico, sent cuttings of the Poinsettia to his home in South Carolina. In those early days, the plant had a very short bloom time and it was not until the 1960’s that plant researchers were able to breed plants to bloom for more than a few days. Today, when properly cared for, the Poinsettia will keep its color well past the holiday season and will probably outlast your desire to keep it.

The Poinsettia is in the Euphorbiaceae, (Euphorbia), family and it does ooze a milky sap. Some people can have a skin irritation from contact with the sap if they have a latex allergy and it can be painful if it gets in an eye. However, skin contact would generally only exhibit a mild skin irritation if any at all. A very common misconception is that Poinsettias are poisonous. They are not poisonous, but this does not mean they are meant to be eaten. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Since the leaves taste bad it is not likely a child would eat one and continue eating. Poinsettias can be mildly toxic to dogs and cats and might cause vomiting, so keep your plant out of pets’ snacking range. The dogs that we have had have never shown any interest in a Poinsettia as a food source.

The Poinsettias have arrived at Wilco and here are some tips toward keeping your plant healthy.

• Protect it from the cold on the way home
• Keep the plant away from heater vents and drafts
• Keep soil moist, not soggy
• Place in an area with natural light
• Room temperatures should be kept between 60 to 70 degrees F

Often Poinsettias will have a colorful foil ‘sleeve’ around the pot. Remove the plant from this sleeve when you water it and take your Poinsettia to the sink for a good soaking. Water accumulating in the ‘sleeve’ is a sure way to kill a plant.

All of the Poinsettias at Wilco have been grown by a selected grower in Woodburn, Oregon. Poinsettias are easy to care for and can easily give weeks of much-needed color during our overcast winter days. Get your Poinsettia early and enjoy it throughout the holiday season. Red, pink and white, the choice is yours!