Poinsettias are the most loved Christmas plant. During the holidays you see them in churches, indoor Christmas displays and in pretty much every home. There's nothing prettier than a swath of Poinsettias grouped together. About $60 million dollars worth of Poinsettias will be sold in the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas and they contribute over $250 million to the U.S. economy at the retail level. That's a lot of flowers, folks. The most popular color is still red, but there are many other colors and varieties too.
Poinsettias are a native flower of Mexico where they are found in the wild in tropical forests and grow 10 to 15 feet tall. Can you imagine? They were introduced to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, a doctor who loved botany. He was the United States ambassador to Mexico who sent cuttings of his discovery to his home in Charleston, SC in 1828. The rest is history, and the Poinsettia has become a beloved must have for the Christmas season. The name Poinsettia is usually capitalized because it's someone's name. Who knew?
I've always heard that Poinsettias are poisonous, but an Ohio State University study showed that a 50 pound child would have to eat over 500 leaves to suffer any adverse effect. Because the leaves aren't tasty, and most kids don't eat their vegetables anyway, that's probably not happening. Still you should prevent pets from eating the leaves as they can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Nobody wants to deal with that during the holidays.
If you have Poinsettias at home, here are some tips for caring for them:
1. They need a good bit of sunlight, so place them next to a window. Make sure the leaves aren't touching the window, as it can damage them.
2. Water when the soil feels dry and a few leaves are wilting. Never let them sit in water, but allow them to drain well.
3. If you want to keep them for next year, it's an intensive process to get them to re bloom. Really intensive. You can search online for instructions if you're up for a challenge. If you're like me, you give up and relegate them the the compost pile in February. There's no shame in that. Raise your right hand and repeat after me, "I refuse to judge those who throw their Poinsettias away after a few months". Ha ha. After all, we get them to enjoy at Christmas and it's the reason so many sell every year!