I have had a love affair with poinsettias all my life. When I was very young small pots of flaming red poinsettias would appear in florist’s windows in the weeks before Christmas. Their flamboyant red bracts brightened the bitter cold December days. That these gorgeous and to me very rare, creations bloomed in the winter months in far away Mexico convinced me that it was an exotic, wondrous place. I vowed to go there when I grew up.
When my daughter was ten years old we drove from Regina, Saskatchewan to Mexico City. We arrived early Christmas eve staying in a charming pension on Hamburgo Street in the center of the city. There was a flower market close by and that night I carried back to our pension an armful of poinsettias with stalks almost five feet long. They were our Christmas tree.
There are those who find poinsettias too ubiquitous, but for me they are proud and fiery plants that herald the bright start of the sparkling Christmas season. From mid-October to the Christmas season these darlings spend 14 hours a day in complete darkness to be ready to bring joy to your holiday decorating.
Poinsettias thrive on heat and affection. Never buy poinsettias from open-air stalls. These tender plants will not last if they stand in the cold for any length of time. Wrap the plant in a further protective layer when taking it home. They love the warmth of a centrally heated home but dislike direct heat and drafts. Water to keep the soil moist, not soaking and mist the bracts and leaves regularly.
It is possible to keep a poinsettia going for another year if you prune it back to 10 cm in April. Replant in fresh compost in a slightly larger pot. Water sparingly, just to prevent drying out, and fertilize every two weeks. In an ideal plant world you would keep it in a greenhouse through summer.
Many horticultural gurus regard poinsettias as pot plants that should be discarded after Christmas. They suggest that plants should be composted once their bracts begin to fall or lose colour. That is what I do with my poinsettia plants. I treat them with love and affection. Enjoy their flaming beauty. Then bid them a grateful good-bye.