Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners


Poinsettias can be cut and used in flower arrangements, provided the stems are sealed.

Cut the "blooms" with at least four inches of stem. Immediately seal the cut end by dipping in boiling water or holding over a flame for fifteen seconds. Make sure hands are protected with a kitchen mit. Sealing prevents the sap from oozing from the cut and thus, preventing the cut stem from wilting.

"Blooms" should last a week or more. Make sure the cut end is in water or a wet florist block. Discard flowers when wilted and leaves start falling.

This method works for plants accidentally damaged during transport or carelessly broken.

The colored leaves of a poinsettia are not the flowers, nor the petals of the plant; the colored leaves are more correctly called bracts.

The actual poinsettia flower is the small yellow "ball" in the middle of the colored bracts. Flowers are petal-less and often fall off indoors due to low humidity and light levels.

Removing the small flowers will not make the plant last longer, nor will it make the bracts more colorful. Flowers may be removed to limit them falling on the floor or furniture throughout the holiday.

Flowers, like the rest of the plant, are not considered poisonous. However, the poinsettia is not a food crop plant and should not be eaten.

Poinsettias can be identified by the color of their petiole, or leaf stem.

Red poinsettias will have a bright red petiole; pink plants will have a pink petiole and white plants will have a green petiole. Multi-colored plants such as 'Jingle Bells' and 'Marble' will usually have a pink petiole.

Poinsettias are commonly thought to be poisonous and cause death. THIS IS NOT TRUE. No case of poisoning by the plant is recorded. In fact, members of the Society of American Florists commonly eat poinsettias for the press each year to dispel the rumor.

However, this doesn't mean you should eat the plant. No plant should be eaten that isn't grown to be eaten.

The milky sap might cause an allergic skin reaction, though it does not affect everyone. Allergic conditions to poinsettias are similar to allergic conditions to chocolate, milk, wheat and poison ivy -- some people are affected but not everyone.

Poinsettias should be kept in a bright light humid environment. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

After the colored bracts (the blooms are small yellow flowers in the center of the bracts) fall, cut the plant back by half. Place outdoors during the summer, on the east or north side of the house. Fertilize and water regularly to stimulate growth. Pinch regularly to maintain a short, stalky plant.

In September, bring the plant indoors, place in a southern window and continue to water and fertilize. Repot in large pot and loose houseplant soil if needed. Check for insects.

Beginning October 1, poinsettias should be kept in absolute darkness from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m., or there abouts. During the day, give the plant bright light and continue watering and fertilizing practices.

Plants can be covered with a cardboard box painted black on the inside, or placed in a closet or unlighted room. A street lamp or night lamp can disrupt the night schedule.

Plants should start turning color by November. Continue with regular practices. Watch humidity levels -- keep high. Avoid misting plants -- leaf spots will appear on leaves and bracts.

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