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Everything you needed or wanted to know about Poinsettias
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


December 4, 2016

Above, a pure red poinsettia—still the most popular of all even with all the different colours etc. that have been introduced recently. Below, a pure white form of this popular Christmas plant used as a decoration at the doorway to a retail store in Santa Barbara, California.
Author photos.



 


 



 

The speckled red variety of poinsettia, known as 'Jingle Bells', continues to be popular here. I remember when it was first introduced by the Ecke Ranch in California (early 80s), that some indoor plant people said it would never sell! Well, they were wrong, obviously. However, the critics were correct about the yellow variety introduced in the late 80s. It's literally no longer seen!

The white, peach, and pink varieties, as well as the marbled tones of creamy-white and pink have also gained in popularity. However, the several varieties with deep red bracts--the colour is actually on the bracts, or coloured leaves, not the flowers which are yellow and insignificant in the centre of the bracts--are still the favourites. This year, the predominant red variety is a much brighter red than in the past. Be sure to consider it for your home.

Now, the best way to choose your poinsettias is from the vast selection that you'll find at most garden centres at this time of year. Your garden centre is THE location where you know the plants have been well looked after before you take them home! Often, poinsettias are purchased from roadside sellers, or mass merchandisers who don't even care enough to wrap the plants for transport to and from the vehicle. Imagine how much good and proper care the plants receive before you buy them from such sources!

Poinsettias exposed to cold air (10° C./50° F. or lower) prior to your purchase will simply not do well in the home. The exposure to cold is the most common cause of the dropping of leaves (first the lower green leaves and eventually the coloured bracts) in the home.

In the past few years, poinsettia trees--the traditional plants on trunks of at least 70 centimetres (30") have become increasingly popular. This year again a number of newer varieties, as well as the standard solid red, have been created as "trees" and are available generally as a special order from your garden centre. Be sure to ask. These are stunning in a home over the entire Christmas season in that they put the flowers at a much higher level!

Regardless of where you buy your poinsettias, as mentioned, it is important that they NOT be exposed to cold temperatures even for a minute or two on the way between store and car, or car and home. If it's below 10° C, be absolutely sure that your plant is wrapped well for transport. In very cold or windy conditions, well wrapped means an outer cover of green or fancy paper and/or plastic with layers of newspaper inside as well. This inner newspaper insulation is the most important aspect.

When you buy your poinsettias, keep in mind that by following the suggestions given here, you will easily be able to keep them thriving and looking terrific at least until Easter!

Care of your Christmas poinsettias is simple. They require at least six hours of bright light (indirect sunlight) each day. Judge the light by whether or not you are able to read fine print. You should be able to note a strong shadow with your hand over a piece of paper. As soon as you get the plants home, water them well so water runs through the holes in the bottom of the pots. About ten minutes after watering, pour away any and all excess water that ran through the holes. This is very important; as with most houseplants, poinsettias do not like to grow in a pot that is sitting in water. Check your poinsettias daily for water. When the soil in the pots feels dry, water well.

Since the plants are at the peak of their output, a liquid or soluble fertilizer should be applied according to package directions. Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 16° and 22° C. (60° and 72° F.) in the daytime, with a reduction of 4-6 degrees C. at nights. One final important hint is to make sure your poinsettias are never placed in drafts of any type--either cold or warm air. That means avoiding places which either receive blasts of cold air from doors to the outside, or of hot air from heating ducts.

No part of poinsettia plants is poisonous, according to a major research work done in the early 1970s at Ohio State University. Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada removed the poinsettia from its poisonous plant list two decades ago! Still, as with all plants, it is advisable to keep them out of the reach of children, as poisonous insecticides may have been used on the foliage.

   

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