Most people treat the poinsettia (also called Christmas star, Mexican flame leaf, or lobster plant) as an annual, purchasing a new plant at the beginning of the traditional winter flowering period and discarding it at the end.
But in suitable climates, it can be planted in the garden after its use indoors. The plant’s leaves are pale green and the small greenish yellow flowers uninteresting, but the vibrantly colored bracts can be magnificent.
These are, in fact, colored leaves that develop at the top of the stems in fall, and they can be as long as 10in/25cm.
Initially only the striking, brilliant red version was common, but there are now varieties with pink, creamy white, and bicoiored bracts.
HEIGHT 15in-3ft/38-90cm. POTTING MIX Peat-moss-based.
REPOTTING Every year in midsummer; but do not overpot.
PROPAGATION Take 4-6-in/10-lS-cm stem cuttings from the top of the plant in midsummer. Seal the ends in hot water, let them dry out for 24 hours, then insert them into sandy potting mix.
KEEPING PLANTS See box above right.
Euphorbia Pulcherrima Euphorbiaceae PLANT CARE
- Keep young plants in bright filtered light; direct winter sun will not harm mature plants.
- Winter temperature of 60°-70°F/116 —21 C; cooler when the plant is not in color.
- Keep the soil moist in winter and spring; reduce watering after flowering.
- Apply weak liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks from midfall to late spring.
Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Diva’ has brick red bracts. On ‘Rosea’ the bracts are pale pink, darkly veined. They are salmon pink on ‘Pink Peppermint,’ strong lemon yellow on ‘Lemon Drop.’