Monday, December 8, 2008

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are native to Mexico. It was the first United States ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the US in the 1820's, and after whom the common name was given.

The poinsettia is a euphorbia species, which have a milky sap which some people are allergic to, myself included. Can't get that stuff any where near my face or I break out in a really ugly red rash!

The red part of the plant which most of us consider to be the flower, is actually a bract which is a modified leaf. The flowers are the clusters of tiny yellow things in the center of the bracts. If you're looking for a plant that will last, chose one where the flowers don't have pollen showing.

Poinsettias have long been regarded as poisonous, but that is a myth. According to the Society of American Florists' web site, About Flowers, "research from The Ohio State University has proven the poinsettia to be non-toxic to both humans and pets. All parts of the plant were tested, including the leaves and sap." Also, "according to POISINDEX, the national information center for poison control centers, a child would have to ingest 500-600 leaves in order to exceed the experimental doses that found no toxicity."

To care for your poinsettia:
* Put it in a sunny window - do not let it touch a cold window
* Water only when dry, do not allow to wilt, do not let it sit in water
* Temperature 60-70 degrees F are best, a little cooler at night is good

Getting your poinsettia to rebloom is tricky. It is a short-day plant, which means it needs a long night in order to bloom. It needs complete darkness starting in October for 15 hours a day. This means if you keep it in a closet in the dark, but open the door for a moment, you've broken the 15 hours of darkness! Best to keep it in a lightproof bag for the 15 hours a day it needs. Once you see color showing on the leaves, you have achieved success!
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