One of the symbols of Christmas that we enjoy is the colorful poinsettia. The tradition had its beginning in 1825, when Dr. Joel Robert Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, saw the plant growing wild near Taxco, Mexico. Dr. Poinsett collected 16 plants, which he brought back to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. He soon gave cuttings to many of his gardening friends. However, the beautiful poinsettias that we enjoy at Christmas today didn’t begin to evolve until the mid-1960s.
Here are four ways you can enjoy and protect your poinsettias.
-- In choosing your poinsettia, select one that has bracts that are large with bright colors. Also, look for a plant on which the small flowers at the tip are just beginning to open. Shedding pollen and open flowers are an indication that the plant may not continue to look its best during the holiday season.
-- When transporting plants, make sure they are protected from temperatures lower than 50 degrees. Exposure to cold air will usually cause the leaves to drop.
-- Keep your plants out of drafts and away from open doors in order to prevent sudden temperature changes.
-- Water your plant when you bring it home, then check the moisture content of the soil on a regular basis. It will probably need to be watered twice a week. If the poinsettia becomes too dry or too wet, it will probably shed its leaves.
After Christmas, some gardeners attempt to plant their poinsettias outside in the landscape, this is not recommended for our area because we have some freezing and frost during the winter months. If you decide to plant poinsettias outside, be sure to select a sunny location on the south side of the house that has some protection from the cold wind. You also will need to cover the plant with frost cloth or some other type of covering in freezing weather.
Some gardeners enjoy carrying their poinsettias through the growing season. It can be accomplished successfully, but it takes knowledge, planning and persistence.