‘Tis the season to be jolly, or so the song says. I say it’s the season to get a poinsettia. Named after Joel Poinsett, President Andrew Jackson’s ambassador to Mexico in 1828, they only became popular in the 1960’s. A clever grower gave them free to television personalities like Johnny Carson to display during their programs, and America fell in love with them.
Poinsettias come in several colors now. Red is traditional.
But grocery store poinsettias sometimes languish and die an early death. Here are 3 tips to prevent that:
1. Don’t overwater. Wet roots rot. Water once a week, but even then only if the soil is dry. I like to pick up the pot. If it’s lightweight, I know to water. Overwatering is the #1 cause of their demise.
2. Don’t bake it in direct afternoon sunshine. Poinsettias do best with indirect light. Put it on the dining room table, but never too close to a woodstove or radiator.
3. Keep it out of cold, drafty places. A table by the front door might have nice indirect light, but the cold air blasting it might shorten its life. The literature says they do best at temperatures between 67 and 72, but mine do fine in cooler temps (around 60 degrees).
White poinsettias are quite popular, but not for me!
No matter what conventional wisdom says, cats will not die if they eat a few leaves. Yes, poinsettias do have some alkaloids in the white sap, but your cat would probably have to consume an entire plant to get sick.
Another good thing about poinsettias is that when you tire of them, you can toss them into the compost. They are very hard to keep from year to year, and to get to produce nice red leaves after the first year. So don’t feel guilty if you consign them to death outdoors. They’ll be available next year, too!
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