Euphorbia (Poinsettia) pulcherrima
HOW TO GROW POINSETTIA
Characteristics of the plant
The poinsettia is a deciduous shrub of the spurge family - Euphorbiaceae - up to 3,5 m in its natural habitat. Entire leaves, ovolanceolate, with a couple of lateral tooth and another one at the apex. Its branches end in a cluster of tiny yellow flowers, surrounded by wide red bracts, which provide the complex the resemblance of a unique flower.
Native from Mexico, it was introduced in Europe at the end of XIX century and it is cultivated in all the regions of North hemisphere,where it has become a symbol of Christmas. Many cultivars have been obtained from the native species, showing not only red bracts but pink, yellow or cream, too.
It is normally used as an indoor plant, although it can also be planted outdoors in warm climate. In the first case it generally attains 80 or 90 cm. When planted in the ground, if climate is favourable, it can reach about 3'5 m.
Although one thinks that the flowers are the red color "leaves", in fact the real flowers are yellow, very tiny and not very attractive. These are surrounded by some sort of a leaves, usually red that are, in fact, the bracts.
Its flowers appear at the end of November and they prolong their bloom until half April, although they have their maximum flirtation in Christmas, reason why the plant is known as Christmas Star or Christmas flower.
Because it flourishes till the end of April, it is also called Easter Flower.
Its scientific name Pulcherrima is due to the fact that it was supposed to be one of the most beautiful plants
To maintain an appropriate watering is the most delicate task in the maintenance of this plant. The dryness of the land, together with the lack of environmental humidity, makes the leaves begin to yellow at the tips and, later, they end up drying off and falling. On the other hand, an excess of humidity makes the plant to rot.
The best thing is to provide it a high environmental humidity, so we will avoid to the maximum the stoves or the heatings. If this is not possible, we will humidify the room with a vaporizer, always avoiding not to humidify the leaves, what would favor the appearance of fungi. A very convenient trick is to place a bowl of water on the stove or near the radiator so that its evaporation increases the environmental humidity.
As for the soil, we will avoid to flood the plant to avoid rotting. The most convenient thing would be to carry out more habitual waterings and in smaller quantity while the sample is in vegetative growth. It is convenient to allow the soil dry between watering and watering.
If we have the plant inside a bowl, we will avoid the water to arrive to the pot. A good solution consists on putting a layer of river stones and place the pot on them. Then, we will pour some water without surpassing the stones. By doing this, the plant will absorb humidity without the roots becoming ruined.
A wrong watering is the main cause of the death of most of the samples. If we see that the leaves present a blackish aspect with rottenness signs, we will abandon watering, we will prune it very well and we will leave it in a somber place, hoping the next season sprouts again.
It is a plant that prefers a luminous and warm location. Since it comes from the Mexican warm climate, it prefers a non-cool atmosphere. The ideal temperature would be located around the 18 ºC while it is in bloom. When the leaves have fallen, if we want to maintain it so that the next season flourishes, we will keep it in a fresher place that, in any event, should not come down under 15 ºC.
If we place it in a dark place, the lack of light makes the leaves to lose color and the plant looks line "washed out". Neither he likes the air currents and the abrupt change of temperatures as well as the location changes that usually end up with the plant dropping the leaves.
New samples can be obtained from cuttings, although this method is usually not very successful, so the best thing to do is to buy samples produced in greenhouses
It prefers a rich humus soil with a pH around the 5,5. A garden soil with some peat could be a good one. The fertilizer will be limited to the growing period, in we want to maintain a plant for the next season. If so, we will add every 15 days a small quantity of liquid fertilizer in the waterings from mid spring to the end of summer. If we don't want to maintain it won't be necessary to add fertilizer at all.
the possible toxicity of poinsettia has been very discussed a lot. It was thought to be a very poisonous plant, whose juice was very poisonous in contact with the human skin. This negative legend has been lately debunked and its toxicity is lower that it was supposed (More information)
More information about plants cultivation in the listing above.
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This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.