Flores de Nochebuena
The holiday season is here in Seattle and there’s nothing that embodies the holiday spirit quite like the stunning red and green foliage of the poinsettia. The poinsettia has long been enjoyed as holiday decorations and table centerpieces in the United States, but these beauties are originally from Mexico. In Spanish their name, Flores de Nochebuena, means “flower of the Christmas Eve”. In their natural habitat, poinsettias look quite different than the cultivars that are found at garden centers today. They are a scraggly shrub that, because of their lanky growth, look like vines.
Poinsettias need bright indirect light to thrive. Keep them near a sunny window. It’s okay to put them in a darker spot for a few days for decoration, but to ensure they last through the season let them spend most of their time near your sunniest window.
Poinsettias need to be watered when the soil is dry to the touch. Make sure to take it out of any decorative cover before watering, and water thoroughly. Let the pot drain fully before putting it back into its cover.
It’s important to understand that poinsettias love warm temperatures. Keep them away from drafty doors or windows to keep them happy. They don’t tolerate temperatures below 60 degrees, even if it’s only for a short period of time. Take care when transporting your festive new friend home.
Typically, poinsettias are treated as a temporary holiday decoration, but they can be grown indoors year-round. The care is relatively simple, but during the fall it requires a bit of work to get the poinsettia to bloom again.
Pruning It Back
In the spring cut back the plants to about 6-8”, this may seem dramatic, but it will keep them looking compact and tidy. If they need to be repotted, then this is the perfect time to do so. You’ll notice new attractive green foliage growing through summer. Make sure to pinch them back as needed to keep a compact shape.
To get that famous poinsettia coloring, starting in mid-October the plant will need 12-14 hours of complete darkness every day. Be sure to give them plenty of bright sunlight the rest of the day, though. This can be as simple as placing them under a box in the evening and taking it off in the morning. It’s best to set an alarm or keep to a strict schedule for this process. Once you see the leaves start to color up again, you can go back to normal poinsettia care.
Are poinsettias safe for my pets?
Despite popular belief, poinsettias are only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Still, we recommend keeping these holiday plants out of your pet's reach. The white, milky sap can irritate your pet’s mouth and stomach and sometimes cause vomiting. Visit the ASPCA website for more information.