A Guide to Poinsettia Plants

Poinsettias are traditional flowering plants that can be found throughout the Christmas season. They are easily identifiable by their brilliant red flower petals that are pointed at the ends, and dark green foliage. With the proper care, poinsettias can reflower again. When you decide to get a poinsettia, you should choose a plant that has dark green foliage, and fallen but no low or damaged leaves. The flowers should be proportionate to the size of the plant and the size of the pot.

Caring For a Poinsettia Plant

Exposure to lower temperatures can cause damage to the plant leaves and bracts so it should be well wrapped on the way home or if you are transporting it as a gift. Once the plant is at its final location, it should be unwrapped so that the leaves do not twist and droop. A poinsettia should ideally be placed near a sunny window or in some other well lit area. The plant should not however touch any part of cold windows. Pointsettias are actually tropical plants that do best at between sixty and seventy degrees. Higher temperatures tend to shorten the bract files. It is also important to place poinsettias in a area where there are no drafts, hot or cold. The plants do not tolerate any type of drafts. Placing your poinsettia in a cooler spot at night can help to extend how long the plant will bloom.

Poinsettias should only be watered when they feel dry however the soil should be checked daily. When necessary, enough water should be added to soak the soil to the bottom of the pot. Without sufficient water, the plant will wilt and leaves will begin to drop. On the other hand, if a poinsettia is watered too often, the leaves will begin to turn yellow and then drop. If you plan on keeping your plant for any length of time, you may want to consider adding a house plant fertilizer to the soil once or twice each month.

Poinsettia Plants and Christmas

Poinsettias began to be associated with the Christmas season during the 16th century in Mexico. There is a legend that states there was a girl who was too poor to buy a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. An angel inspired the girl to gather weeds from the side of the road and place them on the altar at church. From the weeds sprouted brilliant red blossoms that became poinsettias. Starting in the 17th century, Franciscan friars from Mexico would make the plants a part of their Christmas celebrations. It is also believed that the star shaped pattern of the poinsettia leaves symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. It is further believed that the red hue of the flowers represent the blood from the crucifixion of Jesus. Poinsettias continue today to be popular Christmas decorations in churches, homes, offices, and many other places. The plants can be purchased almost anywhere during the holiday season. December 12, in the United States, is considered National Poinsettia Day.

Poinsettia Toxicity

Many people believe that the poinsettia plant is highly toxic but this is a common misconception. While the sap of many plants in the genus to which the poinsettia belongs are actually toxic, the toxicity of the poinsettia plant is rather mild. It can irritate the stomach or skin and if ingested may sometimes cause vomiting and diarrhea. It has been concluded that a child weighing fifty pounds would have to ingest approximately five hundred leaves to cause any harmful effects. Poinsettia plants should be kept out of reach of pets and small children because if they are ingested the can cause vomiting and diarrhea but will generally not cause more severe symptoms.

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