'Tis the season for poinsettias

What roses are to Valentine’s Day and lilies are to Easter — poinsettias are to Christmas.

Since its introduction to the U.S. in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, the first American ambassador to the plant’s native Mexico and its namesake, the poinsettia has become a holiday-season tradition and is sometimes referred to as the “Christmas flower.”

Today, the tropical poinsettia is commonly grown in greenhouses throughout the U.S., including in Ohio, which ranks 5th among poinsettia-producing states. According to the University of Illinois Extension, poinsettias account for 85 percent of potted plant sales during the holiday and 90 percent of those sold are grown in the United States.

Though poinsettias are most known for their vibrant red color, the plant comes in an array of colors — pink, white and even blue (thanks to a tinting process). But what many people consider to be the “flower” on a poinsettia is actually colorful leaves. The real flowers are the small yellowish buds at the plant’s center.

But misconceptions about the poinsettia don’t end there. According to ourohio.org, a common myth about the poinsettia is that it’s poisonous — a falsehood that was debunked when The Society of American Florists (SAF) asked The Ohio State University to conduct a series of scientific tests on the plant in the 1970s.

If you’re planning to purchase a poinsettia for the holidays, here are a few tips to help you select and keep your poinsettia beautiful and healthy during the season and beyond:

Selecting a poinsettia:
  • Choose a plant with dark green foliage down to the soil line
  • Avoid plants with fallen or yellowed leaves
  • Choose plants that are full and attractive from all sides; avoid droopy or wilted plants
  • Avoid plants in paper or plastic sleeves or plants that have been displayed or crowded close together — all of which can induce leaf loss
  • Look for a plant that is 2.5 times taller than the diameter of the container

Caring for a poinsettia:
  • Place the plant in a sunny window, but don’t allow any part of the plant to touch cold window panes or sit in cold drafts
  • Keep the room temperature between 60 to 70 degrees during the day and 55 to 60 degrees at night to extend blooming time
  • Water only when soil is dry
  • Do not fertilize while in bloom

Photo obtained from: yorkshiregardencenter.com

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