DO YOU DO WITH YOUR POINSETTIAS NOW?
December 25, 2011
I am asked questions about plants and animals associated with Christmas.
Most focus on reindeer and mistletoe, but some are about poinsettias,
America's most popular Christmas flower.
poinsettias be kept alive and flowering after Christmas? If so, how?
Are poinsettias native to the United States? Are they poisonous? Why
are poinsettias associated with Christmas?
A. With proper care poinsettias can continue to be an impressive plant
for several months. The best information about keeping your potted poinsettia
plants healthy and vibrant comes from the Paul Ecke Ranch horticulturists
in California (www.pauleckepoinsettias.com)
where most of the world's poinsettias are bred and sold. They recommend
that you keep the thermostat set between 68 and 70 degrees F and make
sure your poinsettias never experience temperatures below 50.
include keeping poinsettias away from fireplaces, heat vents, and areas
where they might experience cold drafts. Water them whenever the dirt
in the pot feels dry, but be careful not to overwater. The plant should
receive about six hours of indirect sunlight each day; avoid setting
the plant in direct sunlight. To keep your poinsettia thriving after
the holiday season, use an all-purpose fertilizer. Do not fertilize
the plant until the blooming season is over.
are said to have a bitter, unpleasant taste and may cause an upset stomach.
But they are not toxic to humans or (as was once believed) to dogs and
are similar to dogwoods in that the parts of the plant that are so attractive
to us are not actually petals; they are modified leaves known as bracts,
which are small, inconspicuous structures on most other flowering plants.
The poinsettia flower is actually a small yellow cluster in the center
of the bracts. Most of us are familiar with poinsettias as potted plants
that are prevalent at Christmas. In their native Mexico, poinsettias
are large shrubs that grow more than 10 feet tall. As with the commercial
variety, in the wild these showy plants bloom during the winter.
belong to a large and economically important family of plants known
as the Euphorbiaceae. The more than 7,000 species in the family are
distributed throughout the continents and islands of the world, making
it one of the largest and most widespread plant groups. Some are used
as ornamental plants; others are the source of rubber, castor oil, and
tapioca. Species in the family that are native to North America are
mostly uninspiring small plants known as spurges.
first appeared in this country in the early 1800s. Joel Roberts Poinsett,
of Charleston, S.C., the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, brought several
of these bright red ornamentals and their seeds to the United States,
but controversy surrounds the exact manner in which the species persisted
and became of commercial importance. Some horticulturists believe that
Poinsett sent the seeds to a commercial nurseryman named Robert Carr,
who was married to Ann Bartram Carr, whose grandfather John Bartram
established Bartram's Botanic Garden in Philadelphia. William Bartram--traveler,
naturalist, and artist--was the son of John Bartram and the uncle of
Ann. Whether William Bartram ever saw a poinsettia, wild or potted,
I have no idea. Anyway, Robert Carr reportedly "introduced the
poinsettia into commercial trade from Bartram's Garden on June 6th,
1829." The occasion was an exhibition by the Pennsylvania Horticultural
Society, which ultimately evolved into the long-standing Philadelphia
for the connection between poinsettias and the Christmas holidays is
found in a Mexican legend. On Christmas Eve, so the story goes, a youngster
(or a brother and sister in some versions) was prompted by an angel
to pick a bouquet of weeds to take as an offering to the church. The
child was ashamed to bring such a paltry gift but the angel insisted.
In the manner of such stories, as the child laid the weeds before the
nativity scene, they were transformed into brilliant red blooms that
were the loveliest of all the offerings. Merry Christmas!
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