The holidays become quite magical with holiday plants of all kinds. With the rush of the season we often forget to do the basics for the benefit of the plants.
Poinsettias are the most popular, having sold nearly 70 million last year. With a great variety of selection, there is a special poinsettia for everyone's taste - from the traditional 'Freedom' (totally solid red) to 'Jingle Bells' (having pinkish red bracts flecked with dark red spots). All kinds are possible. All should be treated the same way.
The poinsettia was brought to America by Joel Roberts Poinsett, of South Carolina who was an ambassador to Mexico in the late 19th century. It is one of the most popular "holiday flowers".
When choosing a poinsettia for the season make sure the soil is not dried out. Once you have brought it home keep it well watered - not soaking or soggy and never standing in water. Keep it out of drafts and not in high temperatures. Once the plant has dried out it is hard to bring it back.
Rumors have flourished that this plant is poisonous when eaten. It is not. Ohio State University has proven it otherwise. It is not on any list of poisonous plants.
Poinsettias like good, bright light (4-6 hours per day), and cool night temperatures.
Florists do an interesting thing when arranging with poinsettia bracts. After cutting the stem diagonally dip it in alcohol for about 10 minutes. This will prevent the milky sap from oozing all over. Then use the plant material in an arrangement and it will be good to go for about eight to ten days.
After the Christmas season the plant may begin to dry and curl. Place in a cool dark area - but not where it will freeze - until spring. When the weather warms up cut back to about six inches and place in a nice warm, sunny location. Summer outdoors.
In the fall, poinsettias will start to prepare themselves for another blooming season. Since poinsettias are prepared to bloom by the shorter day lengths in the fall (said to display photoperiodism) even the security lights of the house or street lights may interrupt the natural blooming schedule. After the 15th of October be sure the plant receives complete darkness from sundown to sunup. It should get 14 hours of complete darkness every day.
In the lower southeast, poinsettia trees grow well in micro climates.
Propagation of the poinsettia may be done from May to August, cutting off new growth just to the "old wood" point. Use moist sand, watering a bit each day. After the cutting has rooted, "pot up" to six inches.
There is no other plant that says Christmas like the poinsettia.