3 min read
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Twinkling white lights line the streets and homes and shops put up their decorations and Christmas trees. Perhaps there’s even a poinsettia among your holiday decor this year.
The poinsettia is a classic plant for Christmas around the world and one that can last much longer than the holiday season with the right care. We’re going to explain just where they came from and how to care for a poinsettia so you can enjoy the classic Christmas flower all year round.
Poinsettia’s history as a gift
Poinsettia plants are members of the spurge family. Its scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima and is also known as the Star of Christmas. We know it more commonly as simply poinsettia.
This is thanks to an American doctor called Joel Robert Poinsett. He was a great lover of botany who worked as the US ambassador to Mexico in the 1820s. It was there that he discovered the beautiful plant with its stunning red leaves. It impressed him so much that he brought some seeds of the plant with him on returning to the United States.
Not satisfied with just this, he knew that he had to share its beauty with everyone. As a result, he had the brilliant idea of gifting a beautiful poinsettia to his friends for Christmas, establishing a tradition that has been maintained up to today.
The tradition spread quickly all over the country, as did the name “poinsettia” when speaking of this plant. In 1991 the United States government decided to name December 12th, the date on which Joel Poinsett died, as National Poinsettia Day.
If you have received a poinsettia this year here are some tips to keep it looking its best!
Where to position a poinsettia
It’s best to place your poinsettia somewhere facing windows, where it can enjoy indirect light and avoid cold drafts. They shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit (or 20ºC) during the day. This is especially important when gifting them during the colder winters in North America and Europe where a cold window can be a matter of life and death for the plant.
While the plant is blooming it’s happiest in the sun but if you want it to rebloom later it will need periods of uninterrupted darkness of approximately 8 – 12 hours daily.
How much water does a poinsettia need?
The plant should be watered regularly and kept evenly moist. However, it’s essential to drain off any excess water after watering. Never let the plant sit in water. If you’re unsure when to water, just check if the soil is dry or not. If it’s dry to the touch
It is very common for leaves to turn yellow and drop off when you first bring or receive a poinsettia in your home, however this is completely normal and nothing to worry about. The plant is simply adjusting to its new surroundings. With proper love and care, it will flourish and bloom.
Does a poinsettia need pruning?
If your poinsettia starts getting too big it may be time to cut it back a little. This isn’t always necessary but after flowering, it can help it to regrow and rebloom. A sure sign that the flowering is about to end is when the leaves start growing with a reddy black colour. This will often happen in the springtime.
If you do cut it back it can be cut down to as little as 10 cm in height. From there it will be able to grow back and bloom just in time for Christmas the next year.
A poinsettia doesn’t need to be just for Christmas. Take care of it well and it can keep things a little Christmassy all year round with its festive colour.