How To Care for Poinsettias this Christmas
In order to make sure that your bright plants don’t die, there are just a few simple things to remember.
We’ve all done it. It’s the holiday season and a last-minute party invite (at your boyfriend's mother's house, no less) has left you scrambling for hostess gift ideas. Then it hits you: Your local grocery store most likely has a large display of poinsettia plants, conveniently located near the entrance. The bright leaves say “Christmas!” The tinselly foil on the pots says, “Festive!” So, because Southerners just don’t show up at someone's house empty-handed, you scoop up a plant and present it proudly to Mrs. Whatever-her-name-is.
That’s great. You’ve done your guestly duty. But as the daughter of a mother with the blackest of thumbs, I remember one year when we ended up with an astounding six poinsettia plants. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not trying to discourage you from giving them as gifts–but in order to avoid what my mom did (she promptly killed all of the plants), we’ve rounded up some tips on how to care for that plant (or plants) that your son’s girlfriend/co-worker/dogwalker gave you.
Poinsettias are part of a huge family of plants known collectively as Euphorbia. Poinsettia are Euphorbia pulcherrima, which translates roughly to ‘the fairest,’ and it’s easy to see why. The large, often crimson (but sometimes pink or white) leaves that surround the small, yellow flowers are some of the most attractive seasonal foliage.
Related: Holiday Gifts for Her
In order to make sure that your bright plants don’t die, there are just a few simple things to remember:
If you live in the Tropical South, this makes a great informal shrub, as it needs no special care. In the Coastal South, the plant is likely to die down in the winter. When the leaves start to show color, feed the plant every two weeks with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer; this will help to improve the color. Chances are, your plant will grow too tall (this Central American shrub can grow up to twelve feet tall!) to use next year, but you can start new plants by taking late summer cuttings. Use stems with four or five joints or eyes.