Happy National Poinsettia Day! Did you get my card? No? It's in the mail! And by the way, you can pronounce it poin set ah or poin set tee ah, they're both legal.
The plant is actually a native of Mexico, where it grows like a weed and can reach 10 feet tall. Mexican legend holds that the leaves, shaped like the star of Bethlehem, first bloomed red for a poor girl who wanted to bring a gift to the manger scene at the local church but had no money. Her cousin, who walked to the church with her, said “even the most humble gift, if given in love, would be acceptable to Jesus”. So the girl picked the weed and when she laid it at the altar it turned a beautiful bright red. And so the red flowers were called ‘flowers of the Holy Night”.
Minnesota has a number of nurseries who grow the beauties just for us starting in July. Dundee Nursery for one. Some even earlier! They carefully nurture the seedlings which come in a number of varieties. We said goodbye to plain old red a long time ago and hello to varying shades of red, pink and white with some very fun speckled cultivars like 'Jingle Bells'. Pork and Plants in Altura, MN offers the traditional along with the fantasy in colors not found in nature but perhaps in your decor. You can have them bedazzled too, with glitter that is.
How do we care for our poinsettias in our cold, dry air? It starts with selection. The red leaves are actually called bracts, the flowers are those yellow clusters. When selecting your poinsettia, you want those on the plant, you also want the regular leaves to be a nice deep green color all the way down to the soil line. Don’t bother with one that’s started to yellow or wilt. It won’t last. Check the soil moisture and make sure it’s not soggy, moist is fine, soggy means possible root rot. Turn the plant to make sure it’s full all the way around and don’t choose the plant that’s been sitting with a plastic sleeve on it for very long. They deteriorate faster.
Do have your new purchase sleeved before you take it outdoors but once you’re home, get that sleeve off. Six hours of indirect light is perfect for your poinsettia. Keep it out of cold drafts, away from heat registers and don’t set it on top of any heat source. If it has foil around the pot, punch holes in that to let the water drain. You do NOT want your poinsettia sitting in water. Check it daily and water when the top feels slightly dry. Water until it runs out the bottom, then empty the saucer. Your poinsettia should last for weeks. Check out my website gardenbite.com and Like my facebook page Garden Bite with Teri Knight.