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Poinsettia primer: learning about and caring for the most popular holiday plant

Poinsettias

We typically think of the North Pole when it comes to Christmas, but the most popular holiday plant originates with our neighbor to the south.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

In fact, Poinsett’s death in 1851 is commemorated every Dec. 12 as National Poinsettia Day.

Some other facts:

  • The colored parts of poinsettias aren’t flowers but bracts (leaves).
  • Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous, to humans or pets: An Ohio State study found that a 50-pound child who ate 500 bracts (leaves) might have a slight tummy ache.
  • Poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states. For instance, the 20,000 poinsettias that Royer’s receives each year are from Lancaster County.
  • Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United States.

Source: www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/poinsettia 

HOW TO CARE FOR POINSETTIAS:

  • Average room temperature is fine; they cannot tolerate cold.
  • Bright light is best, as they originate from the warm, bright southwest and Mexico. If given ample sunlight, they’ll last well into the new year.
  • Avoid keeping a plant too wet, they like moist but not wet. Frequency and amount of water will vary depending upon amount of sun, humidity in house and pot size.

5 things you should know about caring for annual plants

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So you bought annual plants in a container at your local florist, garden center or home-improvement store.

Annual plants – such as petunias, geraniums and begonias that complete their life cycles in one year – pose perennial challenges once you bring them home.

Here are five things you should know about caring for your annuals:

1. You have to add nutrients: Your plant didn’t come in nutrient-rich soil. Rather, it’s a potting mix that includes peat moss. This mixture is inert, meaning that it doesn’t contain the nutrients found in soil. So you have to add the nutrients by applying fertilizer on a regular basis.

2. Fertilizer is soluble, so you have to keep adding it: Regular watering of your annual plants will wash out the added nutrients if the container has drainage holes on the bottom.

3. Don’t add too much fertilizer: One of the ingredients in fertilizer is salt. Too much fertilizer – and with it, too much salt – can damage plant roots. The salt in the fertilizer will remove whatever moisture is left in the roots and burn them.

4. Cut the amount in half: Whatever dosage the fertilizer manufacturer recommends, consider cutting the amount in half and fertilizing every time you water. This way you have less of a chance of burning the roots, and your plant gets a continual supply of nutrients rather than peaks and valleys.

5. Give them a pinch: Remove the old blooms and pinch a plant’s tips, which will force out new growth. An occasional light trim will keep a plant bushy and blooming.

With proper care, your annual plants will bloom beautifully for you this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual plants add beauty: 3 simple tips for taking care of them

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Colorful flowering annual baskets and pots provide an easy and inexpensive way to increase the beauty and enjoyment of outside living areas.

Annual plants are available in a wide range of colors and varieties, offering something for everyone.

Care is simple. Just keep these things in mind:

• Choose plants suited to the light levels they’re growing in:

  • Sunny spots require plants that thrive in the sun, such as geraniums, petunias, marigolds, salvia, ageratum, alyssum and portulaca.
  • Plants that do better with partial shade are begonias, impatiens, fuchsia and coleus.

• Container plants drink lots of water. Check them daily.

• To keep the blooms coming all season, add a water-soluble fertilizer a couple of times each week when watering. Plants also can be encouraged to bloom and stay “bushy” by pinching off the spent blooms.

How the lily became a symbol of Easter and other floral facts about the holiday

Photo: Matt H. Wade
Photo: Matt H. Wade

Numerous accounts identify her as Mrs. Thomas Sargent, a resident of Philadelphia who visited Bermuda in the 1880s. Smitten by the lilies she saw there, she brought lily bulbs home with her.

She gave some of them to a local nurseryman named William Harris, “who began growing them, forcing them into spring bloom, and selling to other florists,” writes Leonard Perry, an extension professor at the University of Vermont. “Many began buying this flower for Easter, as they do today, with it symbolizing the Resurrection.”

“Forcing” bulbs – as we described in this post about hyacinths – is the means by which light and temperature can be manipulated in order to control the rate at which a plant grows. In most parts of the United States, lilies naturally would bloom in the summer – weeks after Easter.

Some other facts about Easter lilies:

  • Flowering and green houseplants (46 percent) account for the biggest chunk of Easter/Passover floral sales. Lilies (52 percent) account for most flowering houseplant sales. (aboutflowers.com)
  • Lilies are considered highly toxic to cats. The Society of American Florists recommends keeping lilies out of the reach of cats as ingesting even small amounts of the plant can cause kidney failure. Lilies do not pose a problem for other pets or humans. (aboutflowers.com)
  • In the home, Easter lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures (recommended 60 to 65 degrees during the day, slightly cooler at night). They thrive near a window in bright, indirect natural daylight. (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)
  • Ohio is among the states that produce the most potted Easter lilies. (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use hairspray to preserve your holiday wreath

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A natural Christmas tree eventually loses its needles, but giving it daily drinks of water will dramatically slow the process.

Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with a natural Christmas wreath.

But here’s the next-best thing: seal in the wreath’s moisture using hairspray, which acts like glue and holds the needles on.

To avoid any messes, do the spraying before you hang the wreath on a door, window or wall.

The result will be a wreath that looks shiny, green and full throughout the holiday season.

Mums the word year-round

Many of us decorate porches and patios with hardy mums in the fall. But a little bit of loving and some attention to the calendar can help you get the most out of your mums and even keep them blooming in a garden for years to come.

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If you planted mums in the ground back in the fall, then the summer months are important in their growth cycle.

Feeding: From spring through July, nourish your mums twice a month with an all-purpose garden fertilizer mixed in water. Stop feeding in August.

Pinching: By July 15, you should pinch the top growth back 1 to 2 inches. This will ensure that your mums bloom in the fall rather than during the summer.

Controlling pests: Aphids are the most common pests that afflict garden mums. These are small soft-bodied insects about the size of a pinhead. They range in color from green to yellow to black. They make their livings by sucking the sap out of tender new growth. To control them, spray an all-purpose insecticide or insecticidal soap on the plants once a week for a couple of weeks. Take care not to spray plants in direct sun or when the temperature is above 90 degrees.

Now, if you are thinking about planting your potted mum for the first time, here are some steps to take:

• Be sure to water your potted mums daily as warm days will make them thirsty. At the same time, too much water can damage the roots; provide drainage in decorative pots or baskets.

• It’s best to plant the mums in October so their roots have time to grow before cold weather sets in.

• Once the mums are planted, water them thoroughly a couple of times each week through mid-November. This will encourage the roots to grow deeply. The deeper the roots, the stronger the plants will be.

• In late spring, cut the plants down 6 to 8 inches above the ground. This will give you bushy, compact plants with lots of flowers. As spring gives way to summer, follow the instructions above relative to feeding and pinching.

Here’s how to extend the life of your Easter blooms

Even after the Easter Bunny has visited and the last eggs are hunted, Easter plants will bring beauty and color into your home. In fact, you can make the flowers last a lot longer by following some easy steps.

What’s more, after your bulb plants – such as daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocus and narcissus – have finished blooming, you can transplant the bulbs into the ground and watch the flowers come up next year.

The key to making the flowers/blooms last longer – perhaps twice as long – is to keep the plants in a cool place, such as at night. This will stall the normal aging process, extending the life of the blooms.

While you’re sleeping, place the plants in your garage or out on your porch (but don’t let them freeze), and then bring them back inside your house in the morning. For smaller plants, such as a single-bloom hyacinth, you might even have room in your refrigerator.

Of course, it’s also important to keep the plants watered.

Once the blooms peak, let the plant die back into itself, nourishing the bulb. Keep the bulb in its pot and store in a cool, dark place. In early fall, separate the bulbs and plant them in your garden in anticipation of their blooming again next spring.

Poinsettia Care Tips for this Christmas and Next!

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A 5+ bloom red poinsettia wrapped with a gold wrap and decorated with gold balls and a plaid bow.

Keeping your poinsettia looking great this Christmas takes two easy steps, but did you know with a few more steps you can have a wonderful poinsettia next Christmas as well?

This Christmas

1. When the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, water the plant.

2. Keep the poinsettia in a room with temperatures between 60 and 72 degrees. Keep the plant out of hot and cold drafts, such as those from a heating vent or open door.

 

Next Christmas

1. When leaves begin to drop, let dry slightly between watering.

2. In late spring (early May) cut back plant to 6 inches, shake free of soil and repot in new potting soil, then resume regular watering. Fertilize with a 30-10-10 fertilizer twice monthly. Stop fertilizing November 1st until December 30th.

3. Place outdoors in a warm sunny location when the temperatures are consistently over 60 degrees.

4. Pinch the tips of new shoots when they reach 6 to 8 inches long until late July. Continue to fertilize every two weeks.

5. Bring indoors before cold nights (early September) and place indoors in full sun. Three to six hours of sunlight is needed.

6. In order for poinsettias to bloom, they must have 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day for 40 days (late September through October). Place in a dark place such as a closet or cover with a bag from early evening and remove the next morning so that the plant is in total darkness.

7. When #6 is followed, your poinsettia will bloom at Christmas, but remember, it only takes 10 minutes of light per day during the time it was dark and your plant won’t bloom until January or February.