(Euphorbia pulcherrima), one of the most popular winter holiday
plants, is a native to the area around Taxco, Mexico. Joel R. Poinsett,
the first United States ambassador to Mexico, introduced it into
the United States. In Mexico, poinsettias grow to be large woody
shrubs, often reaching heights above 10 feet.
is a member of the spurge family and is characterized by small,
inconspicuous flowers (cyathia) and large, brightly colored, leaf-like
bracts. Poinsettia bracts may be red, pink, white, yellow, speckled
or marbled; the most popular color is red.
are often thought of as poisonous, but research indicates that poinsettias
contain no chemicals commonly considered toxic; however, eating
the plants is not recommended. While most people are not sensitive
to the sap, it can cause a mild skin irritation.
the plant where it will receive a maximum amount of indoor sunlight.
Premature leaf drop is one of the main problems in poinsettia care.
The plant needs to be kept out of drafts, as rapid temperature fluctuations
will cause premature leaf drop. Even touching a cold windowpane
can cause injury to the bracts. Night temperatures should be no
cooler than 60 to 65 degrees F. Day temperatures should not exceed
80 degrees F.
cause of leaf drop is wilting. The soil must be kept slightly moist
but not soggy. Water thoroughly and make sure the pot has good drainage.
Empty out any water that may be left in the pot saucer after watering.
is typically not needed for the first month because the potting
mix includes a slow-release fertilizer. After the first month, fertilize
once every two weeks until the plant loses its brightly colored
remove any paper or plastic sleeve. Ethylene gas can accumulate
within the sleeve and cause premature flower drop and leaf curling.
of the new poinsettia
cultivars will keep their leaves and remain attractive even in summer.
If the plant retains its leaves, treat it like any houseplant. Place
it in a sunny location and apply a complete fertilizer containing
trace elements once every two weeks. As soon as night temperatures
reach a minimum of 60 degrees F, the plant can be set outside.
Once a poinsettia
plant drops its leaves, let the soil dry out and keep the plant
in a cool location--it still needs some light. The temperature should
not rise above 60 degrees F; between 50 and 55 degrees F is ideal.
In late April or early May, bring the plant out of its resting stage.
Cut the stems back to about 3 to 8 inches above the soil. If there
is more than one plant per pot, separate them and replant in individual
is necessary, use a soil mix that is loose and porous. A soil mixture
composed of three parts sterilized soil, two parts organic matter
(peat or sterile compost) and one part perlite or vermiculite works
well. You also can buy a premixed, pasteurized media. If you are
mixing your own soil, add one teaspoon of superphosphate or bone
meal for every 2 1/2 cups of soil mixture and thoroughly mix in.
Place the plant
in a light, warm place and water whenever the soil begins to dry.
as the night temperature reaches a minimum of 60 degrees F, the
plant can be set outside. Place the plant in a shady location for
two to three weeks to allow for acclimatization and to prevent leaf
sun scald, then sink the pot in a sunny location with well-drained
soil. Give the pot 1/4 turn every few weeks to break off any roots
that might be growing through the drainage holes.
Once the new
shoots are about 1 inch long, apply a complete fertilizer containing
trace elements. Use either a water-soluble fertilizer or a slow-release
fertilizer -- follow label directions. Fertilize plants at seven
to ten day intervals. To
prevent your poinsettia from getting too tall, pinch off or prune
the growing tips when they are about 4-6 inches long. If the new
shoots grow another 5 inches before late August, repeat the process.
Pruning shapes the plant to form an attractive compact growth.
are short-day plants, which means they flower about 10 weeks after
the daylight shortens to 12 hours or less. For Christmas bloom,
the plant must be kept in full darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.
from early October until late November. Flowering will be delayed
if there is any exposure to light during those hours. The plant
can be put in a sunny window during the day hours. Fertilizing should
continue until mid-December.
may attack poinsettias: white flies, fungus gnats, mealybugs and
spider mites. The
adult white fly looks like a small fly covered with white powder.
gnats are small, dark-colored flies about 3 mm (1/8 inch) long.
They can be found either on the plant or soil surface. The adults
are more of a nuisance than a real problem, but the larvae do feed
on plant tissue. Mealybugs
are serious pests of poinsettias. These insects are soft-bodied
and appear as a cottony mass, usually in the axis of the leaves.
the leaves with alcohol on a swab can control mealybugs, aphids
and spider mites if caught early. Other choices for control are
a variety of sprays. Read the labels carefully before using.
diseases that affect poinsettias are soil-borne and are primarily
fungi. The easiest methods for controlling these disease organisms
are by sanitation and periodic use of a fungicide.
If you want
to propagate poinsettia, take leafy cuttings during early to mid-August.
Cuttings should be about 4 inches long and may be rooted in any
pasteurized media. The use of rooting compounds will increase the
percentage of cuttings that will root and the rate of rooting. Place
the pots where humidity is high. A terrarium or similar structure
with high humidity is an ideal location for raising poinsettias.
The leaves on the cuttings should not wilt. To prevent this, reduce
the amount of leafy surface by cutting some basal leaves in half--shading
the cuttings. The more light the cuttings can be exposed to without
wilting, the more rapidly the rooting and the more vigorous the
rooted cutting. Keep the medium moist but not saturated with water.
Air temperature of about 70 degrees F by day and 60 degrees F by
night is best for rooting. Cuttings will root in about three to
four weeks. Further treatment of the rooted cuttings is the same
as for plants bought from commercial sources.
from a fact sheet published by University of Nebraska Cooperative
Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Authors
Jay B. Fitzgerald and Donald H. Steinegger.