The poinsettia is a must-have Christmas plant that will bring a colorful touch to your home and beautify your holiday tables. The poinsettia, also known as the Christmas star, will seduce you with its theatrical bracts that oscillate from creamy white to deep red. Its maintenance is relatively simple and it adapts perfectly to our interiors. With a little skill and attention you can even make it bloom again!
The history of the poinsettia
Native to the tropical regions of Mexico, the poinsettia has real meanings in Aztec culture. The “flower of the holy night” (“flores de la noche buera” in Spanish) was particularly venerated by this Amerindian people who used its sap to fight against fever, and its bracts to compose textile pigments.
It was in the 19th century that the poinsettia crossed the borders of Mexico thanks to Joel Poinsett, an American ambassador with a passion for botany. Amazed by this plant, he brought it back to the United States and it became a symbol of Christmas. In honor of Joel Poinsett who died on December 12, Congress named the plant “Poinsettia” and established a National Poinsettia Day.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Ecke, a German farmer, cultivated it on a large scale and marketed it throughout the United States. His son exported it to Europe where it adapted perfectly to the climatic conditions of our interiors.
A careful but easy maintenance
The poinsettia likes a bright room (but without direct sunlight) and heated between 16 and 20°C. Avoid especially draughts, the poinsettia is very cold! Watering should be moderate, about every 2 or 3 days in winter (every day in summer) when the root ball starts to dry, with warm water. Cold water may cause the leaves to fall off! Do not leave standing water in the sub-pot which the poinsettia will not tolerate.
After the “flowering” period (i.e. once its bracts are completely discolored), your poinsettia will enter a vegetative period. Reduce the watering and towards the end of April, take the opportunity to cut back the stems by a third to stimulate new growth. As summer arrives, you can place it outside in a bright place.
A poinsettia that blooms again, it’s possible!
As a “short day” plant, the poinsettia needs a period of darkness for the bracts to color. In the fall, if you want your poinsettia to cover its beautiful hues, immerse it 14 hours a day in total darkness, such as by covering it with cardboard or placing it in a closet overnight, for eight to ten weeks. The rest of the day, find a place for it in a bright place and once its bracts are again well colored you can brighten up your home again!