Nothing says Christmas like poinsettias, which come in hues of red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.
Introduced to America in 1825 by Joel R. Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, poinsettias are relatively easy to care for.
The best way is to keep them in bright light, watering only as the soil starts to dry. Keep them away from drafts and don’t let their leaves touch cold window panes.
Poinsettias, which will grow to 10-15 feet tall in the tropics, are cultivated at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees in greenhouses, so this range is best for a long plant life. High temperatures will shorten the life of the colorful bracts. Putting your poinsettia in a cooler room at night will extend the blooming time.
Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. A study conducted by Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus the leaves have an awful taste. But you might want to keep your pets from snacking on the leaves, which – if ingested – can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
For those who want to keep their poinsettias after they lose their bracts, the plants can be moved outdoors after the last frost. You can keep them in the same container or plant them in the ground, where they will thrive; however, you will probably want to prune them before they start to grow. Fertilize as needed.
It’s possible to get poinsettias to rebloom next Christmas, but it will require some effort. They will need 14 hours of total darkness and 10 hours of direct, natural light daily from Oct. 1 through mid-December. The temperature should be kept between 60 and 65 degrees. Once the bracts start to change colors, your can show off your botanical skills.
And even if they don’t bloom in full, you still have some showy houseplants.