This is the time of year my thoughts turn to the indoors. I do not have a large collection of indoor plants since during most of the year I am just too busy outdoors in the garden, and of course they then suffer. However, as the holiday season approaches I like to bring in a few plants for Christmas and by far my favourite is the Xmas poinsettia.
WHAT IS A POINSETTIA
A poinsettia is really a member of the Euphorbia genus, which has about 2,000 species of annuals, perennials, biennials, shrubs, trees and succulents. They are widely distributed in tropical, sub tropical and temperate regions. Many herbaceous euphorbias work well in mixed borders, rock gardens or shrub borders. Succulent species are suitable for dry, tropical gardens or green houses.
The Christmas poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a partially deciduous shrub with an open and spreading habit. It is usually sparsely branched, has lance-shaped green leaves about 6 inches long. What we often think of as the flower is not the flower at all. In winter the leaves bear dense, 12 inch wide terminal green cymes ringed by large leaf like red bracts. As this species is native to Mexico it is often called Mexican flame leaf. The shrub is generally around 6 to 12 feet tall and 3 to 8 feet wide. Certainly much larger than the table plants we purchase at the nursery. If you have ever travelled to the tropics you have no doubt come cross the poinsettia shrubs growing in nature.
In recent years hybridizers have gone crazy developing all kinds of new colour combinations. We now have white, pink, almost purple, and combinations of all colours on one plant. Call me old fashioned but I still prefer the solid bright red or snowy white versions when decorating my home for the holidays.
NOTE OF CAUTION
Poinsettia should be out of reach of children and pets as ingestion of the leaves can cause severe discomfort and the white milky sap is quite caustic, especially to mucous membranes. Simple common sense will keep everyone safe.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR POINSETTIA
- Place your poinsettia in a bright location with lots of natural light, but preferably not in direct sunlight.
- Keep your plants away from hot and cold drafts, such as window drafts and furnace vents.
- Water your plants thoroughly when the surface is dry to the touch, however never leave water standing in the drip tray.
- Drafts and over watering will cause your poinsettia leaves to drop prematurely. Proper care will ensure your plant is beautiful throughout the entire Christmas season and beyond.
- Wrap your poinsettia to keep it warm while bringing it home if your climate is cold.
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