Euphorbia pulcherrima or Poinsettia is often for sale around Christmas for its distinctive bright red or white bracts.
Poinsettia, also known as Christmas Plant, belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family, plants which contain a milky sap that is very similar to latex and has the same irritating ingredients. People who are allergic to latex should avoid this plant or wear gloves when handling it. Many believe that the plant is poisonous but research has shown that you would have to consume huge amount of to show signs of poisoning.
The use of plants as Christmas decoration dates from the 16th century in Mexico. The plant was already used for the manufacture of red dye and as an antipyretic. In the 19th century it was imported in Hawaii, the United States of America and Europe.
Christmas Flower, Christmas Plant, Christmas Rose, Christmas Star, Flor de Nochebuena, Lobsterplant, Mexican Flameleaf, Paintedleaf Ponsettia
Euphorbia coccinea, Euphorbia diversifolia, Euphorbia erythrophylla, Euphorbia fastuosa, Euphorbia lutea, Euphorbia poinsettiana, Euphorbia pulcherrima forma lutea, Pleuradenia coccinea, Poinsettia pulcherrima var. albida, Poinsettia pulcherrima
Euphorbia: Greek for ‘euphorbia’.
Pulcherrima: Latin for ‘the most beautiful’.
Poinsettia: in honor of the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. It is the former name for Euphorbia.
Warm tropical forest with dry season where it grows as a small tree or bush
USDA zone 9-11
Potting soil mixed with some sand and perlite.
Prefers full sun outdoors and a south-facing window indoors.
Christmas Rose likes a moist substrate during the growth period but can rot in standing water. In winter watering should be drastically reduced and the roots should be slightly drier.
Provide monthly fertilizer for indoor plants but nothing during flowering.
Keep the plant out of warm or cold drafts, so don’t place it above a heater or an open window.
Diurnal temperature: 18-21 °C
Nocturnal temperature: 12 °C
Getting a Christmas Rose to bloom the next year is quite difficult and requires a year of special care.
- give water normally until early April and then gradually allow the substrate to dry
- never let it dry out so much that the stem starts to shrivel
- after this drought, place the plant in a cool (15 °C) and well ventilated place, upside down or lying on its side
- in May prune the stems to 10 cm above ground
- repot into a larger pot or shake the earth from the roots and plant it in fresh potting soil
- water abundantly and then watered again 5 minutes later so the root ball gets well moist
- place the plant at a south-facing window
- temperature: 18-24 °C
- water when the surface feels dry
- when growth resumes, give fertilizer for flowering plants every two weeks
- from early June you can plant outdoors in partial shade
- keep giving water and fertilizer regularly
- early July pinch the top of the stems at 2-3 cm
- pinch the end of the stems again in the second half of August and leave 3-4 leaves
- now bring the plant indoors at 18-21 °C night temperature and continue watering and fertilizing
- to get it in bloom by Christmas, it must remain entirely in the dark at night from early October to late November. It’s not necessary to move tha plant, you can put a box or blanket over it. During the day it must have as much light as possible.
- take a stem cutting of softwood of 7-15 cm in May
- remove the lower leaves of the cutting
- dip the cuttings in water to stop leakage of the milky sap
- if you want to keep the mother plant, mist the places where you removed the cuttings stop leakage of the sap
- fill a pot of 7.5 cm with a mixture of perlite and sand
- cover with 2 cm of sand
- dip the cutting in rooting hormone (optional, but speeds up the rooting)
- insert the cutting in the substrate
- give plenty of water
- then water only when the substrate is dry to prevent rot
- temperature: 15-21 °C
- the rooting takes about two months, then you can transplant the cuttings in soil and in a larger pot and treat them as adult plants
- Euphorbia pulcherrima red: Own work
- Euphorbia pulcherrima white: Own work