A Truly Tropical Plant


To end the week, I thought we’d stay with the holiday plants.

Because my own sister has to email me every year about this plant–the poinsettia–and because this is the #1 most popular selling plant in the world (yes, you read that correctly–there are more poinsettias sold than any other plant!)–I thought I’d give some timely tips on how not to kill them.

I don’t say that lightly because as you see in the photo, this plant is in my office. I can’t even grow them in my house–it’s too cold in my house.

My office is not optimal–the light is not the best. But if I put on my overhead lights, there’s enough light to do microsurgery, so that’s surely enough light for a poinsettia!

The trick on these plants is the watering. They like to stay “evenly moist” which can be difficult to achieve. They also like it warm–70 degrees is optimal–and they can’t be in drafty or cold places. So don’t even think about leaving them in a car while you’re out running errands.

They do not need direct sun–bright light is fine, hence my joke about my overhead lighting. The one in the photo has been in my office for a week already.

What to expect? Remember that these plants are technically shrubs so they will lose their lower leaves naturally as they age. That’s why some growers have started selling them with other plants planted at their “feet.” It’s a nice look.

If a leaf breaks off, there is a milky sap. Some folks, in rare instances, might have an allergic reaction to the sap. Try not to touch it.

Poinsettias are NOT poisonous. That’s a terrible urban legend. You–or a child or pet–might get a stomach ache if you chew the leaves or flowers (those buds you see are actually the flowers). But other things you have in your home at the holidays are likely to be more toxic to your children or pets.

Finally, most folks don’t save them long enough to even try to get them to change color for the following season. I’ve done it, but the color is not nearly as vibrant. In at my latitude, because we have so much darkness, I don’t need to do anything special (no nonsense about putting the plant in a closet or under a box!)

I merely leave it in a room where the lights are rarely turned on in the evening. I find that by doing that, the plant will naturally begin to acquire color around the beginning of December.

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