Poinsettia – The symbol of Christmas outdoors is the Holly with its bright red berries. Indoors it is now the Poinsettia (proper name Euphorbia pulcherrima) with its large, scarlet flower-heads. This was not always so – in the early 1960s it was a tall-growing shrub which was distinctly difficult to keep in leaf or flower in the average home. Things have changed – modern varieties are bushier, more attractive and much less delicate – in addition modern chemicals are used to keep the plants small. The result is that the Poinsettia of today is compact (1-1,5 ft high) and the flowers (which are really colored bracts) should last for 2-6 months.
When buying a plant look at the true flowers (yellow and tiny in the center of the flower-head); they should be unopened for maximum flower life. Also the plant should not have been stood outdoors or in an icy shop. Once in your living room put it in a well-lit spot away from draughts and keep it reasonably warm.
Types of Poinsettia plant
All Poinsettias are varieties of Euphorbia pulcherrima. Red is the favorite color – types include Barbara Ecke Supreme, Mrs Paul Ecke and Angelica. Pinks such as Dorothe are not very popular but the whites and pale creams (Regina, Ecke’s White) are widely available. The most unusual Poinsettia is Marble – the bracts are deep cream with a rosy-red heart.
Secrets of success
Temperature: Average warmth — minimum 55°-60°F during the flowering season.
Light: Maximum light during winter. Protect from hot summer sun if plant is to be kept for next Christmas.
Water: Water thoroughly — wait until compost is moderately dry before watering again. Water immediately if leaves begin to wilt. Water more liberally in summer.
Air Humidity: Mist leaves frequently during the flowering season.
Care After Flowering: Plant should be discarded, but if you like a challenge it can be kept and will bloom again next Christmas. The lighting will have to be very carefully controlled in fall season.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in early summer. Use a rooting hormone.
How to make a Poinsettia bloom again next Christmas?
When the leaves have fallen cut back the stems to leave stumps 4 inches high. The compost should be kept almost dry and the pot placed in a mild, shady position. In early May water and repot the plant, removing some of the old compost. Continue watering and shoots will soon appear. Feed regularly and remove some of the new growth to leave 4–5 strong new stems. The prunings can be used as cuttings.
From the end of September careful light control is essential. Cover with a black polythene bag from early evening and remove next morning so that the plant is kept in total darkness for 14 hours. Continue daily for 8 weeks, then treat normally.
Your Poinsettia will again be in bloom at Christmas time, but it will be taller than the plant you bought.