Poinsettias can grow all year in Fla.
TRACY HODGEPoinsettias are plants typically associated with the holiday season. While many of us think of displaying these rich, red plants only during Christmas time, they can last longer with a little tender loving care.
Published: December 5, 2012
Published: December 5, 2012
Many plants have an interesting history and the poinsettia is no exception. Native to South America and Mexico, the poinsettia dates all the way back to the 14th century when it was used primarily for medicinal purposes by the Aztecs.
This plant was introduced to the United States in 1825 by an amateur botanist named Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought the plant to South Carolina from Mexico. As time went on, the poinsettia became increasingly popular for its rich color and beauty. While it was originally known as the Mexican fire plant, the poinsettia was renamed after Poinsett's death in 1851.
Many people discard their poinsettias after Christmas has ended. However, you can enjoy this lovely plant for several months if you take proper care of it. When you bring your plant home, be sure to place it in a container that has adequate drainage holes. Only give your plant water when the top layer of the soil is dry to the touch. Check your plant for signs of moisture every few days, as too little water can lead to leaf drop.
Place your poinsettia in an area of bright sunlight during the daytime and be sure to keep it away from drafts and windows. Poinsettias thrive in temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Avoid fertilizing your poinsettia while it is in bloom for best results.
Once Christmas is over, you may notice the bracts losing their color and dropping off. When this happens cut back the plant, leaving about four buds. Keep your plant on the same watering and feeding schedule through the summer.
For optimal health, give your plant a monthly dose of fertilizer. To entice your poinsettia into flowering, place it in a dark room every night at the beginning of October. Your plant should be in darkness for at least 15 hours each night for best results. Keep this routine until early December, then revert to your regular care schedule. With a little luck, your poinsettia will bloom for another Christmas season.
One secret of success in poinsettias is watering to provide a constant source of moisture to the roots of the plant. However, poinsettias do not like to be soggy, so avoid overwatering. Root rot diseases may attack wet, soggy roots. It also may be necessary to transplant your poinsettia to a larger pot, so it does not become root bound.
You also can plant your poinsettia outdoors, as an accent to your landscape setting. While these plants will grow in a wide range of soils, they grow best in clay, sand and muck.
You can plant your poinsettia outdoors as soon as the threat of frost has passed. These plants should be pruned during the early part of spring and should be cut to within 18 inches of the ground. Avoid fall pruning for best results. You may find a few pests on your poinsettias.
Like other ornamental plants, these plants may suffer damage from aphids, whiteflies, mealy bugs and spider mites. All of these pests have piercing mouthparts, used to pierce plant leaves and remove sap. Poinsettias may develop stippled leaves as a result.
Worms also are common pests of outdoor poinsettias. One of the most damaging pests is the poinsettia hornworm, which can defoliate an entire plant in short order. You can hand-pick these worms from your poinsettias and place them in a bucket of soapy water to drown them.
Outdoor poinsettias also may suffer from fungal diseases, which can cause root rot or stem rot. Choosing a well-drained planting site and developing proper watering practices are key to keeping these plants healthy.