If you were to be asked what one plant you associate most with Christmas it would be the poinsettia. The poinsettia is also known as the Christmas Star and is indigenous to Mexico. There are over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia and on December 12th we celebrate Poinsettia Day.
For those of us who purchase a poinsettia each year, here are some tips on how to keep your poinsettia healthy.
- Don’t over water. Like most plants the poinsettia’s roots will rot and die if it’s left in water for too long. Make sure that the earth in the pot has completely dried out before watering. If the soil feels dry to the touch it’s ok to water your plant.
- Light is important. The poinsettia likes a bright location but not in direct sunlight. Pick a spot near a window where it will receive lots of light. Poinsettias also make beautiful centerpieces for your table. Keep in mind that the poinsettia can be mildly toxic to your pets causing vomiting. However, they are not the dangerous plant that many make them out to be.
- Keep indoors until spring. In early April cut your plant back to about 8 inches tall. At this time it can be fertilized with a houseplant fertilizer. Once all danger of frost is past you can bring your poinsettia outdoors. During the summer keep it in a slightly shaded spot. Bring it back indoors by late August and once again trim it back to about half of its present size. By October you will have to keep it in total darkness if you wish it to bloom again at Christmas time.
December 12th, Poinsettia Day, marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, an American botanist, physician and Minister to Mexico. In 1828 sent cuttings of the plant he’d discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. To read the full story of Poinsettia Day and how it originated, click here.