Poinsettias as Gifts

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Although the Christmas merchandise seemed to pop out around Halloween this year, the colorful and natural living reminders of the season are now here to bring smiles, especially during holiday events. Plants make wonderful holiday gifts; they bring a bit of nature indoors too. Might you be looking for a unique party favor or gift for a teacher or friend? Consider sharing an ever-festive poinsettia and an inspiring story – The Legend Of The Poinsettia!

There are many family stories about this plant including a wonderful legend from Mexico which has been handed down through the generations. The tale is about the humble but heartfelt gift of greenery – weeds even, from a little girl named Lucida being transformed by the power of giving. As the weeds are transformed into the Poinsettia plant, this folktale reminds us that that any gift, regardless of size is beautiful because it is given. Every Christmas to this day, the poinsettia appears on top of green branches in Mexico and the people call these plants the Flower of the Holy Night.

When selecting a plant for yourself or as a gift, make sure it has healthy foliage and that no roots are coming out of the pot. When giving a plant as a gift, it is always helpful to include care instructions.

PoinsettiasReds are still the most popular poinsettia. However, there are also the pinks, whites, and those with marbled foliage (the color parts are actually colored bracts, not the flowers) ranging in size from small five inch pots to large showstoppers. Whichever look appeals to you, chose a plant with dark-green foliage on bottom and completely colored bracts above with no sign of wilting.

While we associate this plant with winter holidays, it originates in Mexico where it grows as a 10-15 feet tall perennial shrub, and it doesn’t like cold temperatures. Temperatures below 55°F will damage this tropical plant. By using a few practical methods, poinsettias are an easy to care for plant that will last for the entire holiday, and then some.

Place the plants in a well-lit location where the lighting is indirect. Poinsettia generally do best at the same temperatures we keep our homes in the winter – from 60 to 68°F, but kept away from direct sun, drafts, and heating sources like vents or radiators.

Remember that your heating system is also pulling humidity out of the air as well,  so be sure to check the moisture to the plant roots. You’ll want to water it when the surface of the potting soil feels dry so check the plant’s moisture level every few days by inserting a fingertip into the soil. If it feels dry beneath the surface, water thoroughly, letting it drain for a few minutes. Even if it comes in pretty plastic wrapping and bows, don’t let the pot sit in water! Not only will the “aroma” of that water be far from pleasantly fragrant, but the roots will drown and you’ll lose the plant. Good drainage is critical. No roots, no plant.

If cared for properly, gift plants can brighten someone’s life for months to come so share some holiday cheer with beautiful plants and heartwarming stories.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.