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With Proper Care, Poinsettia Can Be Enjoyed Beyond Holidays

by American Phytopathological Society

Enjoying poinsettias after the holidays

St. Paul, MN - The Poinsettia may be a popular plant to buy during the cold and snowy holiday season, but it’s actually a tropical plant with origins in Central America and Mexico.

Now cultivated in greenhouses through out the U.S., the

poinsettia starts out in summer as a rooted, stem cutting, then is induced to develop the colorful flower bracts by short day growing conditions in late fall and early winter. This long production period, say plant health scientists, can make it a tricky plant to keep healthy. Fortunately the modern version of the plant is pretty hardy, and along with proper care can remain beautiful even after the holidays.

“There’s really no reason why people can’t continue to enjoy the beauty of this plant for many weeks after the holidays,” says D. Michael Benson, a plant health scientist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Benson, along with other scientists, work closely with growers to combat several diseases that routinely threaten the plant. The poinsettia, says Benson, is a small miracle of sorts, having not only survived the transition from a tropical tree to a domestic plant, but also the many diseases that could have prevented its cultivation in this country.

Benson offers some simple advice for keeping poinsettias thriving:

  • Remember to keep your poinsettias in a cool room with bright, indirect sunlight for at least six hours each day, but don’t let them touch cold windows. A chill will cause the poinsettia to drop its lower leaves.
  • Infrequent watering is best. Do not water until the soil surface feels dry. Be sure to remove any foil wrapping around the pot during watering, saturate the root ball completely, and then allow excess water to drain completely before re-wrapping.
  • Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not deadly 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 may cause stomach aches if ingested.
Happy Holidays from the plant health scientists at the American Phytopathological Society. A full article on the Poinsettia’s history and disease control issues is the subject of this month’s APS feature story and can be found at APS website at The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant disease with 5,000 members worldwide.


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