The poinsettia became a symbol of Christmas in part because of a man named Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the first ambassador of the USA to Mexico in the early 1800’s.
Poinsett had some greenhouses in South Carolina, and when visiting Mexico became interested in the plant. He brought some back to South Carolina, where he began growing them and sent them to friends and botanical gardens including one of his friends named John Bartram of Philadelphia. Anyone who has studied American history knows that when John Bartram became involved, the plant was destined for a future in horticulture. Bartram was an American colonial botanist, horticulturist and explorer based in Philadelphia as well as friend of Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers. Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus said he was the “greatest natural botanist in the world.” Now we know why they are called “Poinsettias”.
The most common color of poinsettia is red but today there are many different shades of red from dark burgundy to bright florescent red and many shades in between! From variegated foliage and variegated bracts to speckled bracts and differing sizes the variety is amazing. From white to pink to peach the color choices are plentiful too.
Select plants with large, brightly colored bracts (red, pink, white or bicolor pink and white) that are not wilted, broken, or damaged, and a plant with a full complement of rich, dark green leaves. Healthy leaves should be present even at the base of the plant. The true flowers are the yellowish button-like structures in the center of the bracts. Your poinsettia will be wrapped in a sleeve to protect it from cold and windy weather because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes can damage the bracts and leaves.
Avoid hot or cold drafts
Poinsettias are tropical plants, so when searching for the perfect location, look for room temperature and at least six hours of indirect sunlight daily. Keep the plant away from close proximity to heat registers, fireplaces or heaters. Dry heat will damage the plant. Do not let any part of the plant touch the cold window since this could injure the plant. Avoid cold drafts such as near doorways or slider doors. Maintain a daytime temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit to extend the blooming time.
Over watering will make the leaves turn yellow and fall off, while under watering will cause the plant to wilt and lose its leaves. Learn to tell whether or not the plant needs water by lifting up the pot. You can often tell simply by the weight whether or not water is needed. Make sure water is able to drain out the bottom of the pot, and remove the excess water from the tray at the bottom. Do not leave the plant standing in water. Overly wet soil lacks sufficient air, resulting in root injury. Most poinsettias come with a decorative foil cover on the pot so make sure to poke holes in the bottom to allow water to drain. Standing water in a pot cover will become stagnant, damage the plant and cause fungus gnats to become a problem. With proper drainage your plant should be easy to care for and provide beautiful color throughout the holiday season and beyond.