As Christmas traditions go, a poinsettia wasn’t among them.
Perhaps it was the plant’s reported toxicity towards pets and children that kept them away or perhaps it was something else, but the bright red, white and green foliage, while familiar, wasn’t a Christmas constant like, say, a Christmas tree or stockings.
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That’s not true for everyone and it was much appreciated when Rebekah Hall with the U of A System Division of Agriculture, offered some helpful tips and trivia on the poinsettia.
Most importantly, “poinsettias are not very toxic to pets,” Hall wrote. It is true that the plant’s milky sap can be a mild irritant to the mouth of pets when the plant is chewed, so it isn’t great for pets, or curious toddlers, but not toxic.
There’s also a connection between Arkansas and the Poinsettia that wasn’t taught in the history classes, it might have also been a lack of attention that missed this connection but Arkansas’s Poinsett County and the plant are both named for the same person – Joel Roberts Poinsett of South Carolina, who was a congressman there and also a botanist. He was also a native of Mexico, and brought clippings back from his home country to plant in the United States.
Poinsettia plants also happen to bloom around the Christmas holiday, which also helps its festive connection.
The plant’s popularity surged in the 1960s when they were used as decoration in television studios and were prominent in holiday specials from Bob Hope as well as Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
If you get a poinsettia, you can keep it alive throughout the year with just a little care.
Avoid exposing the plant to heat above 80 degrees or below 50 degrees and try to place the plant in direct sunlight. The plants also prefer moist soil, so water when the potting feels dry but be sure that the water drains as that will keep the plant from getting root and stem diseases. An occasional round of houseplant fertilizer will help keep the poinsettia going but isn’t necessary.
When summer arrives, the poinsettia can move outside to indirect sunlight and this is when fertilizer becomes more important.
When September rolls around, the plant needs to move back inside and make sure it gets plenty of sunlight at least until October. That’s when the plant needs 11 hours of bright sunlight daily, but also 13 hours of complete darkness. The darkness is what makes the blooms so vibrant, so you’ll need a box to cover it.
Until Thanksgiving, that’s when the box comes off and move the plant so it gets six hours of direct sunlight daily.
For an informative video, watch below: