Basic Poinsettia Care
First things first…
Before we get into simple care instructions, let’s get the pronunciation out of the way.
Note that the word ends in “i-a” which should technically be pronounced. That being said, I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested by the poinsettia police for saying POIN-SET-TAH.
Bright, scarlet poinsettias appearing around local malls, shopping centers, garden centers, and grocery stores are beautiful markers that the holiday season has arrived.
And indeed, it feels like poinsettias are literally everywhere, which is partly true! In the US alone, over 42 million potted poinsettias are sold yearly. That's more than 11 plants for every square mile!
If you need a quick refresher on poinsettia care, follow these guidelines to keep your them looking beautiful throughout the holiday season.
- Transportation: Poinsettia will benefit from being protected from the cold and wind even on short trips home from the store. Consider they are a tropical plant and don’t take kindly to 20 degree temperatures (neither do I, for that matter). If it’s under 50 degrees, take them home in a box or garbage bag to protect them from the cold and wind. Bring them indoors as soon as you’re home…let the ice cream melt if you have, but don’t leave poinsettias in the car.
- Temperature: Poinsettias do best when it’s around 60-75ºF. These plants can suffer damage when the temperatures drop to 50ºF, and freezing will outright kill them.
- Light: Poinsettias should be near a window that gets around five hours of indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can potentially stress poinsettias resulting in short-lived, sad looking plants.
- Water: The top layer of the soil should feel barely moist to the touch. Generally, water these plants only once a week. Overwatering might cause root rot. Poinsettias are sometimes sold in decorative wrapping that doesn’t allow for proper drainage. If this is the case, make sure to remove it.
- Pests: Poinsettias are vulnerable to a number of pests that can cause serious damage to their foliage. The main culprits are whiteflies along with spider mites, thrips, and gnats. These can easily be managed with I Must Garden Insect Control.
- Placement: Avoid placing poinsettias around frequently opened doors or windows. Cold drafts of air can potentially shock your poinsettia plants. Direct sources of heat will not be appreciated either.
Children and Pets: Pets and small humans should also be a consideration when bringing poinsettias in your home. While poinsettias are not poisonous, they can cause allergic reactions.
According to a study on Poinsettia Exposure from Krenzelok et. al. in 1996, poinsettia poisoning from either ingestion or contact is rarely ever severe in humans. Of the 22,793 reported poinsettia poisoning cases from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were zero fatalities. But there were 1,732 individuals from this study who did experience mild symptoms. One explanation for these cases might be that some of the more affected individuals may have had a latex allergy. Poinsettias are closely related to the rubber tree which is the source of latex. When the branches of a poinsettia are cut or broken, a milky sap is emitted and it is this sap that can leave a rash upon physical contact with skin.
Poinsettias are mildly toxic to cats and dogs, but their harmful effects are often exaggerated by popular discussion on the topic. Ingestion typically causes drooling as well as vomiting and sometimes, diarrhea. Poinsettias may also cause mild irritation on contact, resulting in swelling, itchiness, and redness.
That being said, there may be other factors that could lead to a more severe reaction in your pet. The Pet Poison Hotline says it best, “If you think your pet has eaten something potentially toxic, call the Pet Poison Helpline or seek immediate veterinary treatment.”
Following these simple steps will keep your poinsettias looking just as beautiful as the day you bought them. And just think! You get to do it all over again next year!
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