Keep your poinsettia looking cheerful

The colorful poinsettia is undoubtedly the most popular live Christmas plant in America. Indigenous to Mexico, where it is called flor de nochebuena, the poinsettia was brought to the United States more than 150 years ago and popularized here by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who fell in love with the crimson plant while serving as U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Today poinsettias are available not only in the classic deep red, but also in pink, salmon, yellow, creamy white, and marbled colors. Poinsettias are purchased or received as a gift by millions of people, although many of us are not quite sure how to take care of them.

With proper care, these plants will continue to bloom for several months. Here’s a checklist for keeping your poinsettia looking good:

  • Place the plant in indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours per day.
  • Keep the room temperature at 65-70°F. during the day and, if possible, reduce it to 60-65°F at night.
  • Never expose the plant to cold drafts or excessive heat. If necessary, cover plants while carrying them to and from the car.
  • Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Water when the soil feels dry, but don’t let the plant sit in water that’s drained through the pot (remove the foil from the bottom of the pot if necessary).
  • If spider mites, whiteflies, or mealybugs are found on the plant, spray it with insect killer by following the label directions.
  • Feed after the blooming season with a balanced plant food.

And by the way, poinsettias are not poisonous. That really is just an “old wives’ tale.” Research by The Ohio State University has proven that poinsettias are not toxic to humans or pets – although your children, dog, or cat might get an upset stomach if they ate some!