Poynsettah… Poynsetteeah… Let’s Call The Whole Thing Pretty

December 9, 2010 5 Comments

poin·set·tia noun

\pȯin-ˈse-tē-ə, ÷pȯint-, ÷-ˈse-tə\

This is the pronunciation guide from www.merrium-webster.com.  It really doesn’t matter what you call this lovely winter time beauty.  If you want to get around the argument, though, you can call it Euphorbia pulcherrima, the scientific name of the poinsettia. 

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America.  They were brought to the United States in 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who, if you hadn’t guessed it, provided the plant’s common name.

What most people call the flower of the plant is actually just colored leaves, or bracts. 

Even though the colorful part looks like a flower, it isn't.

The flower is actually the small yellow things in the middle of the leaves.

THESE are the flowers.

In a natural setting (Mexico or Central America) poinsettas are perennial flowering shrubs that can grow ten feet tall!  That wouldn’t work here, but they might make it in southern Texas.  The Aztecs called the poinsettia Cuetlaxochitl (and, no, I won’t even try to pronounce that) and used the bracts to make a reddish-purple dye.  And apparently Montezuma had them brought into what is now Mexico City because poinsettias can’t be grown in the high altitude of the city. 

I have heard for years that poinsettias are poisonous.  That is just not true.  It may cause some discomfort if eaten, especially in large quantities, but it is not poisonous.  That rumor was probably started to keep the kids from playing with Grandma’s plants.  Now, having said that, don’t go out and eat them.  When the stem is cut or broken, a milky sap comes out of the plant. While the Aztecs reportedly used this sap to control fevers, it can also cause skin irritation.

A few items of trivia for you: 

     -Poinsettias represent over 85 percent of the potted plant sales during the holiday season. 

     -Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United State.

     -California is the top poinsettia producing state, but the plants are commercially produced in all 50 states.

     -The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 80 percent of the poinsettias in the US for the wholesale market.

     -There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available.

Now the most common color is red, but you can have purple, burgundy, pink, salmon, white, cream and gold.  There are also  bi-colored and speckled poinsettias available.  I like the multi-colored ones, especially if I have a few red and white ones around, too.  Of course, I have four “boys” (the cats), so I don’t have poinsettias at home, but I do enjoy seeing them everywhere.

When you select a poinsettia, you want to choose a well-shaped plant with dark green foliage and well-colored bracts. There should be little or no pollen being shed by the true flowers.  Most poinsettias are priced according to how many blooms it has, so the more blooms, the more expensive the plant will be. 

Poinsettias are tropical plants, so make sure they are wrapped carefully before you transport it home. Unwrap them as soon as you get home and plce it near a sunny window or other bright location.  Don’t let the plant touch the cold window pane, however.  That will cause the plant to wilt and possibly freeze.  Keep the plant away from cold drafts or heat sources.  The heat source may dry it out too much, plus poinsettias prefer to be between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

I have noticed the poinsettias on the set don’t like the dry air in the studio.  Of course, neither do the computers when I shock them after I sit down on the cloth chair and push the chair along the carpet.  I don’t like it much, either!  The poinsettias are drying out pretty quickly, so they need to be checked often.  Check yours daily by putting your finger in the soil. If the soil surface is dry to the touch, water the plant until water begins flowing from the bottom of the pot.  Since most poinsettias are placed inside decorative pot covers, carfully remove the plant from the pot covering when watering.  Water the plant in the sink and then place the plant back in the decorative pot cover.

Two more things… December 12 is National Poinsettia Day, so go on out and celebrate.

And if you want more information, check out the University of Illinois Extension’s Poinsettia Pages. There is a lot of nice information on them, including more interesting facts about the poinsettia.

Enjoy the season!

Dig it!

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  1. JesusIsTheReason says:

    Hi Eileen,
    I have a question for you. I have a plant…that I haven’t killed. 🙂 I’m not sure of the name, but it’s a plant you can use to help stop bleeding…by pinching off a leaf and using what’s inside on the small cut, etc. My problem is it gets little flies–fruit flies is my guess. Any reason for that? Any way to stop it? (The rest of my kitchen is clean-no other fruit fly issues, just this little plant!) 🙂

  2. Pam says:

    Eileen,I had never really heard of the poinsettia being poisonous when it comes to people,but every year I hear how poisonous they are if a pet chews on it…I have 2 dogs and a cat so I never get a plant…so are those rumors true?

    • Eileen Loan says:

      Pam, Apparently the rumors are not true, but I don’t have any of the plants in our house either. Even if it doesn’t kill them, they will still end up regurgitating on the carpet (it happens when they get hold of any greenery, even the tops of celery) and I really don’t want to clean it up! Plus, since they will much on the plants, it makes the plants look ratty and I don’t want that!

  3. Janet Longus says:

    I bought my boss a Golden Pothos plant for Christmas and when we got back to work on Monday we noticed that some of the leaves had turned yellow. Is there something we can do to keep them the lush green color they were when I gave it to him?

    Thanks for your help.


    • Eileen Loan says:

      Janet, The leaves can drop some leaves when it is placed in a new location. It can also get yellow leaves if it is overwatered, possibly even underwatering. Check the soil to determine if it is too wet or bone dry. If the watering seems okay, maybe it needs a bit of fertilizer. If you think those two things seem okay it may be insects so treat with your favorite houseplant insect treatment. I’ll see if I can track more information down.

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