Flowerdale Nursery  & Landscaping
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Flowerdale Nursery & Landscaping

       Poinsettias

 

History: The Aztecs called poinsettias "Cuetlaxochitle." During the 14th - 16th century the sap was used to control fevers and the bracts (modified leaves) were used to make a reddish dye. Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, had poinsettias brought into what now is Mexico City by caravans because poinsettias could not be grown in the high altitude. The poinsettia was brought to the United States from Mexico by U. S. Ambassador Joel Poinsett in 1828. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. Even though Poinsett had an outstanding career as a United States Congressman and as an ambassador he will always be remembered for introducing the poinsettia into the United States. In the early 1900's the Ecke family of southern California grew poinsettias outdoors for use as landscape plants and as a cut flower. Eventually the family grew poinsettias in greenhouses and today is recognized as the leading producer of poinsettias in the United States. Poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states. California is the top poinsettia producing state. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
                                 

 

Not Toxic: The poinsettia is not considered an edible plant but it is quite safe and not poisonous! According to Ohio Florists’ Association a myth began in 1919 when a two year old child’s death was linked to eating a poinsettia leaf. Officially the story is the only death ever attributed to poinsettia poisoning and is only hearsay. In the 1970’s University tests concluded that a fifty pound child can eat 500 to 600 bracts and experience no toxicity. The leaves and bracts taste awful but if children do eat a small amount, doctors suggest milk or ice cream to avoid an upset stomach. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reviewed all available poinsettia related information and denied a petition in 1975 to require warning labels for poinsettia plants. Despite its continued circulation, the myth of the poinsettia is gradually losing steam.

 

Varieties: Over 100 varieties of poinsettias have been grown. Some of the more popular varieties include: Freedom Red, Salmon, Rose, Marble, Pink, Jester, Peppermint, Lemon Drop, Holly point, Plum Pudding, Jingle bells, Monet and Winter Rose. 

 

Selection: Choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line. Choose bracts (modified leaves) that are completely colored. Do not purchase poinsettias with a lot of green around the bract edges. Do not choose plants with fallen or yellowed leaves. The poinsettia should look full, balanced and attractive from all sides. Choose plants that are not drooping or wilting. Do not purchase plants that are displayed in paper or plastic sleeves. Plants held in sleeves will deteriorate quickly. Do not purchase plants that have been displayed or crowded close together. Crowding can cause premature bract loss. Check the plant’s soil. If it’s wet and the plant is wilted, this could be an indication of root rot. Check the poinsettia’s maturity. Check the true flowers which are located at the base of the colored bracts. If the flowers are green or red-tipped and fresh looking, the bloom will "hold" longer than if yellow pollen is covering the flowers.

 

Care: The length of time your poinsettia will give you pleasure in your home is dependent on (1) the maturity of the plant, (2) when you buy it, and (3) how you treat the plant. With care, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks and some varieties will stay attractive for months if placed in a sunny window. Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from heaters, air conditioners or open doors and windows. Ideally poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70°F and night time temperatures around 55°F. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible. Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Water when soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water. Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month.

 

Care after the holidays and re-blooming:

Late Winter - Early Spring: Cut back each of the old flowering stems to 4 to 6 inches in height. Do this in February or early March. This will promote new growth.

Late Spring – summer: Repot into a pot that is 2-3 inches larger diameter. Make sure the soil mass is moistened and place in a sunny window. When all danger of frost has passed and night temperature is above 60°F the plant can be placed outdoors. Place the poinsettia in a shady location for two to three weeks to allow it to become acclimated to the new environment. Place the pot in a sunny protected outdoor flower bed. Light shade during the afternoon is okay. Turn the poinsettia pot regularly to prevent rooting through the bottom hole. It is suggested that a quarter turn each week will prevent this and will also help to keep the plant growth even all around the pot. If the pot is not turned, one side may get more sun than the other.

If you prefer a short plant with many flowers, pinch out the growing shoots to encourage branching. Pinching should produce more flowers and a nice bushy plant. This should be done at 3 to 4 week intervals, according to the speed of growth. Pinch out the top 1/4 inch by hand. Two or three large fully expanded leaves should be left below the pinch; this serves as a guide for knowing when the shoots are ready for pinching. Continue this practice until mid- August, when the plant should have a satisfactory shape and number of shoots. Keep the plant growing actively all summer by regular watering and feeding every two weeks with a complete soluble fertilizer (18-18-18).

Fall: Before night temperatures fall below 55-60°F at night, bring the poinsettia indoors to a sunny location. Check for pests and diseases and place poinsettia in a south window. Flowering is "photo periodically" induced in the poinsettia. This means that flowers begin to form when the days are a certain length, or, more accurately, when the nights are long enough. The poinsettia is a short-day or long-night plant. Without long nights, this plant will continue to produce leaves and will grow but will never flower. You must make certain it receives no light from any source.

Very short periods of lighting at night may be enough to prevent or interfere with flowering. Even light from a street light can stop flowering. If the plant is to be grown in a room that is lighted nightly, cover it completely at dusk (5p.m.) every day with a heavy paper bag, a piece of opaque black cloth, other light-tight cover or place in a dark closet.

Flower initiation begins in late September and early October. Dark periods longer than 12 hours are necessary for flower set. Flowers mature in 60 to 85 days depending on varieties, temperature and light intensity. Because flower initiation depends upon the length of the dark period, your poinsettia must be kept completely dark from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. The time to give this treatment is from the end of September until December 15.

Once you can see the flowers developing in the growing plants, or when the floral bracts start to show definite color, it is not as important to continue giving the dark period, though it is advisable to continue until the bracts are almost fully expanded. High night temperatures, coupled with low-light intensity, low nutrition, dry soil or improper photoperiod may delay maturity.

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