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All About Poinsettias

poinsettias Poinsettias, Christmas blooming masterpieces, are commonly found in North American homes during the holiday season.

But did you know that poinsettias are tropical plants that originated in Central America and tropical Mexico? They grow as unbranched trees as high as 10 feet tall. Beloved by the Aztecs of Mexico as a symbol of purity, Joel Robert Poinsett, first United States Ambassador to Mexico and renowned botanist, introduced them into the United States in 1828.

So how was a tropical tree transformed into the beautiful, branched plants we find in today's florist shops and stores? "Special seedling cultivars were first introduced in 1923," says Ing Ming Lee, USDA plant pathologist and member of the American Phytopathological Society.

"Until recently we've never known what gave poinsettias their bushy, branched appearance. At first we thought a virus was involved, but the latest laboratory tests confirm the dwarf branching habit of the poinsettia is caused by a type of bacterium called a phytoplasma. Although highly unusual, its effects are spectacular in this plant."

Here are some additional poinsettia tips from the Plant Doctors this holiday season:

  • Remember to keep your poinsettias in a sunny place for at least six hours each day, but don't let them touch cold windows. A chill will cause the poinsettia to drop it's leaves.

  • Keep the soil moist and water when the surface feels dry.

  • After blooming is over, fertilizer will help keep the poinsettia healthy and promote new growth throughout the year.

  • Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. The Poisindex Information Service says that even at high doses of ingestion, no toxicity is indicated. However, keeping them away from pets or small children is still a good idea, since they will cause stomach aches if ingested.

source ~The American Phytopathological Society

More poinsettia fun facts

red and white poinsettias
For the holidays, red poinsettias are the most popular color, followed by white and pink.

• Poinsettia "flowers" are actually colored leaves caled bracts. The tiny yellow buds in the middle are the actual flowers.

• With a special sensitivity to carbon monoxide, poinsettias are a good early warning for the toxic gas caused by faulty furnaces or boilers. If poinsettias are brought inside the house and begin to wilt immediately, it's a good sign you should have your house tested for carbon monoxide.

• In the United States, California is the main producer of poinsettias followed by Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan.

• Today, poinsettias come in all shapes and sizes ranging from miniature to spectacularly large specimens that can be trained into trees up to 10 feet tall.

• December 12 is National Poinsettia Day which honors the man who introduced the plant to the United States in 1828, Joel Robert Poinsette.

also see in Gardening -> Houseplant Care

More about poinsettia care around the Web:

Poinsettia Care in the Home

Year Round Poinsettia Care


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