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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 at 9:37 PM

Edith on Poinsettia

Edith on Poinsettia
by Edith Isidoro-Mills The poinsettias are now appearing in stores everywhere.  It’s hard to imagine for me to imagine Christmas without them even though they are a tropical plant and everything secular we associate with Christmas is cold and wintery.  Poinsettias don’t even have a tie to the region where Christ was born.  Instead, they are native to the tropical southern parts of Mexico. Joel R. Poinsett, a former United States ambassador to Mexico in the under President Madison, took some cuttings of Euphorbia pulcherimma in Mexico and brought them home to his greenhouse in South Carolina.  Euphorbia pulcherimma became commonly known as poinsettia; a name derived from the ambassador’s surname. The region of Mexico where poinsettias are native is tropical, humid and never sees freezing temperatures. Some parts of the southeastern United States are marginally favorable for their survival outdoors. Otherwise, these plants must be raised in greenhouses and sold as house plants in the United States. For those of us who have never seen these poinsettias growing in the wild, it is hard to imagine they are perennial and reach the size of large shrubs or small trees. The colorful leaves on the tips of the branches, we think of as flowers, start to appear in November and can last through March under ideal conditions.  The actual flowers only consist of the yellow centers of these clusters of brightly colored leaves. The most common color of these colorful leaves is red but through many years of domestication, varieties with pink, white, yellow, or variegated leaves have been developed. Here in Churchill County, poinsettias must be enjoyed indoors.  Even our indoor climate isn’t ideal because of our extremely dry climate and the fact that these plants are adapted to a warm humid climate.  However, today’s poinsettia varieties have been selected to withstand drier conditions than their native tropics.  Still, it’s wise to keep them away from heat vents and electrical appliances.  Check the soil in the pot daily and water when it is dry to the touch. When leaves and stems of poinsettias are broken, milky white sap oozes out.  This sap is considered non-toxic but individuals who are allergic to latex may react.  Regardless of the lack of toxicity of the sap, it’s a good idea to keep poinsettias out of reach of pets and small children. Keeping poinsettias beyond the holidays can be tricky.  It’s recommended that no fertilizer be applied while the plant is flowering.  As the colorful leaves start to fade cut the branches back until they are only 4 to 6 inches long.  When all danger of frost is past, move the poinsettia outside to a shady location.  Keeping the poinsettia on a protected porch in close proximity to other plants helps raise the humidity near the poinsettia.  During the summer the poinsettia should be fertilized with a standard house plant fertilizer. If the poinsettia is still alive at the end of the summer, bring it inside before the first light frosts of fall.  Once inside, gradually reduce the fertilizer applications until mid-October when no fertilizer should be applied. If all goes well, this year’s poinsettia will again display its colorful leaves for another Christmas season.       Never miss the local news -- read more on The Fallon Post home page. If you enjoy The Fallon Post, please support our effort to provide local, independent news and make a contribution today.  Your contribution makes possible this online news source for all things Fallon.