Euphorbia pulcherrima – POINSETTIA

Perhaps the best-known flowering plants for indoor uses are those associ­ated with the passing seasons or holidays: the poinsettia, harbinger of Christmas; and daisy-like cinerarias which breathe spring into the wintry air. Yet there is a wide selection of exciting plants which can provide you with a succession of floral color throughout the year. Winter-flowering begonias and bromeliads (e.g. Billbergia) are followed closely by the cyclamen, Christ-thorn (Euphorbia x keysii) and zygocatus. Springtime brings forth blossom in the goldfish plant (Columnea), firecracker flower (Crossandra), hydrangea and calceolaria.

As days lengthen more of the gesneriads come into flower: the lipstick vines (Aeschynanthus), gloxinia, miniature sinningias, and episcia. Summer is the time for profuse geranium blossom, fuchsias and miniature roses, begonias and impatiens. And as days begin to shorten, flowers appear on the wax plants (Hoya), long-lived bromeliads like Aechmea and Neoregelia, as well as the Persian violet (Exacum affine). To complete the year, color continues into winter with the blossoming kalanchoes, poinsettias, the fruits of ornamental peppers and the Christmas cherry.

These are just some of the plants which you can watch develop and grow, and which add living warmth and color to your home.

Frequently flowering plants serve a two-fold decorative function: they provide the brilliance of color in their season, and, when the flowers have faded, there remain attractive green plants which need not be removed from view.

Conditioning – Help the Plant to Adjust

The change from greenhouse or florist’s shop to your home always means an adjustment for the plant, requiring it to become conditioned to its new environment. Home air is drier (lower relative humidity), there is less light available and the temperature is often more uniform and higher than that in which the plant has been growing. The range of flowering plants available for home decoration includes many that are well able to thrive in these different conditions once they have made the adjustment.

You can help the plant adjust in several ways:

  • Be sure the soil does not dry out at least for the first week or two, so moisture is always available for the roots to supply the increased needs of leaves and flowers. Cacti and succulents are an exception, however, and should be left dry if purchased during the fall or winter.
  • Move the plant to a cooler place at night to reduce water loss in the warm dry air.
  • Avoid direct sunlight, even for full sun loving plants; this will keep water losses to a minimum while new roots are developing to sustain the flowers and leaves.

Your new plant may lose a few mature leaves and even some blossoms in its first week or two in the home. This is part of the conditioning process for some plants, and unless losses continue, don’t worry. If the plant continues to drop leaves and flowers, some other factor should be suspected.

A handsome plant with large dark green leaves of distinctive shape. The flowers are insignificant but are surrounded by large showy bracts of brilliant scarlet. If the plant is healthy the bracts will last for some weeks. When the bracts finally fade, leaf drop will shortly follow. The plant is not dead, but as it is deciduous it is simply beginning its period of rest. With care it may be re-started in the right season.

Euphorbia pulcherrima - POINSETTIA


Growing season 15-22 °C (60-72 °F)

Minimum winter 13 °C (55 °C)

Watering requirements: Keep soil moist and springy to thumb pressure. Tepid soft or rain water is essential as cold water will shock the plant into losing its leaves. It benefits from high humidity. Spraying is unnecessary.

General care: It is not an easy plant to grow; it needs careful watering, good drainage and a fortnightly feed of weak liquid fertilizer, and dislikes gas central heating or fumes of any kind.

Rest: The rest period begins after the scarlet bracts fall and the leaves drop. Reduce water gradually until the plant is almost dry. Place it in frost-free cupboard until May, providing only enough water to stop the soil becoming dry and hard. In May, remove it from its pot, cut it down to about 4 ins of stem, shake off the old compost and re-pot it with fresh. Place in a warm, bright spot and slowly increase watering as growth re-starts. Pinch out all but two or three new shoots, keeping those which help the shaping of the plant.

When it looks sick:

The plant loses its leaves : This symptom can follow any incorrect handling of the plant. Check for draughts and sharp temperature drops; move accordingly. Check watering; reduce or increase to restore good moist springy soil condition with lukewarm water. Ensure that it has high humidity. If the leaves do fall, the plant is not dead.

Soil: A soil-less compost.

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