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  HOME AND GARDEN » House Plants  

Plants for your home (By Mary Efanti)


Description - Origin

Many or most of us have received a poinsettia as a gift for Christmas.  No doubt, poinsettias are one of the most beautiful and famous Christmas flowers, and are native to Mexico. 

Now that Christmas is gone and the beautiful red leaves of your poinsettia are drying up and falling off, do not discard of the whole pot together with any other Christmas decorations.  Although many people consider poinsettias to be annuals, if you take care of it and provide for its needs, it can live and bloom for years. 

Poinsettias are easily identified by the color of the leaves that surround their tiny flowers in the center.  These leaves are usually red, but could be white or pink as well.  Their height could be anything from 15 cm to over 1 meter under suitable conditions and care. 


After the end of the “blooming” period, prune back the plant to half its height or prune approximately 5 cm over the main branches.  While pruning you will notice a white sappy liquid, much like the liquid you notice when cutting poppies in the spring.  Wash your hands thoroughly as this liquid may cause some people skin irritation. 

If you kept the pot inside your home until now, take it outside so that the temperature is lower.  An average temperature of 12-15 C is ideal.  Reduce watering drastically, adding just a little water once every 15 days, however even if you do not water at all, the moisture of the atmosphere during winter is adequate to sustain the plant.   

After some time, you will notice new growth.  If you plan on repotting now is the time, but take care not to disturb the roots more than necessary.  As soon as new growth appears start watering as often as any other plant.  When the weather warms up a bit, its rich green foliage will compensate for this extra care, foliage which will be growing continuously until the next “blooming” period. 

Leave the pot on your balcony, in a bright spot but keep the plant away from the hot rays of the sun during summer.   In summer, poinsettias need plenty of water but in order to avoid root rot, water only when you notice the leaves start to wither and discard of the excess water on the pot-plate.   During hot days, you might need to water daily and make sure that the pot drains well.  

In order for your poinsettia to bloom next year, you have to provide total darkness for approximately 14 hours every day for 2 whole months.  If the plant gets less darkness than that, it will bloom sometime in spring but plan ahead if you wish to have a blooming poinsettia in time for Christmas.   Keep in mind that nurseries have evolved miracle working techniques in order to force blooming, so let nature have its way and don’t get disappointed if your plant blooms in March. 

Always check often for insects and diseases such as scale that (seldom) may infect your poinsettia.  If you have scale-prone plants like scheffleras keep your poinsettias as far away as possible. 

There is also a beautiful Christmas story about poinsettias.  To read it click here!


Mary Efanti




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