Poinsettias are a well-loved variety of houseplant. Their gracious (but bold) red and green leaves flourish in foil-covered pots in places public and private, augmenting the holiday spirit. Rumored to be poisonous (they’re not), and originating in the exotic Mexican state Morelos, they are simultaneously a plant of intrigue and a common sight. These six facts about poinsettias will help you to appreciate and enjoy your poinsettia for years to come. (It can bloom for more than one season!)
1. The red blooms of the poinsettia are bracts, not flowers.
According to the University of Illinois Extension, the showy red blooms of the poinsettia are not flowers. They are modified leaves, otherwise known as “bracts”. The flowers of a poinsettia plant are the small yellow flowers in the center of the bracts. According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the colorful bracts drop off of the plant after the flowers have shed their pollen. For plants that are in bloom longer, select a plant whose flowers show little or no yellow pollen.
2. Poinsettias are available in over 100 colors.
While a shade called “Prestige Red” is one of the most-bought cultivars of poinsettia, don’t feel limited to the classic green and red leaved look. According to the University of Illinois Extension, over 100 colors of poinsettia are available. Should you desire a bit of variety, poinsettias are also cultivated with bracts in shades of white, salmon, gold, cream, pink and burgundy.
3. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous.
According to the Colorado State University Extension, 1971 research at Ohio State University proved poinsettias were only poisonous to rats when the rats ate 500 brachs or leaves. However, they are not meant for human or animal consumption. Poinsettias contain a sap that is irritating to animals and to people with latex allergies. Dogs or cats that eat poinsettia leaves or stalks have been known to cough or vomit, though the plants are not fatal to them. Since dogs will often taste new objects in their surroundings, it is best to place poinsettias in places where dogs cannot reach them.
4. Poinsettias like cooler temperatures, but not too cold.
The experts at Ohio State University Extension suggest keeping your poinsettia at 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and at a slightly cooler temperature at night. These optimal temperatures promote longer blooming. To avoid leaf drop, keep the poinsettia away from heat sources and drafts.
5. Moderation is the key when watering a poinsettia.
Only water a poinsettia when its soil is dry to the touch. How much water should you add to the pot? Horticulturists from the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service suggest watering until water seeps out the bottom of the drainage holes. Be sure to remove the foil that often covers drainage holes if you have just purchased a poinsettia. Although poinsettias do not like to dry out, they also do not like to sit in water. Empty the water that accumulates in the drip pan that holds the pot.
6. It’s not only possible, but also easy, to reflower a poinsettia year after year.
The Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service published a fantastic, simple chart that details how to make a poinsettia reflower. Simply, in March, remove the flower and cut stems to 6 inches. In June, repot the plant in a larger pot. Then plant it (in the pot) outside. In July, pinch off the lateral shoots. In late August, take the plant inside. From September 20th to December 1st, keep your poinsettia in light from 8 AM to 5 PM only. Keep it in darkness from 5 PM to 8 AM. This will cause the poinsettia to flower by Christmas.