Container Gardens / Houseplants

The perils of a poinsettia in February

poinsettia garden drama

Poinsettias mean Christmas in the U.S., but they are beautiful plants in their own right.

If you treat your holiday poinsettia as tenderly as you do your other indoor plants, chances are, it’s still looking pretty good. At a time of year when I personally would like to put anything winter out of sight and mind, my poinsettia thrives. It sets on my buffet, all Christmas-like and merry, as if to say, “You can’t get rid of me.”

garden drama close up of poinsettia leaf

The colors of the poinsettia are brilliant.

I have chosen to embrace my poinsettia’s hardiness vs. fight it. If one disassociates the Christmas connotations, a Poinsettia is purely a brilliant hued warhorse of a plant with interesting bottle green leaves and brilliant red bracts.

Botanically speaking, it is Euphorbia pulcherrima. The so-called flowers are actually bracts or leaves disguising as flowers, similar to another Euphorbia, Spurge, which is found in our northern spring gardens.

Garden Drama back light poinsettias

Poinsettias love temps between 50 and 70 degrees and filtered light.

So why do we deck our halls with them in droves in December? Well, legend tells us that a little girl in 16th century Mexico gathered weeds alongside the road and placed them on the alter of a church to honor the birth of baby Jesus. These weeds magically grew into Poinsettias and Franciscan monks began to adorn the churches the plants found along the roadsides to celebrate the Christmas season. They are native to Mexico and South America.

FYI, it is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico. He brought the plant to the U.S. in 1825.

Garden DRAMA yellow cushion spurge

Cushion spurge is in the Euphorbia family with Poinsettias. They are a great addition to the spring garden, flowering in late April in Minnesota.

So, here is my plan: tend my poinsettia ’til planting time, then incorporate him into a kitschy container. Poinsettias thrive within a narrow temperature range, 50 to 70 degrees and although they like some sun, they can’t take blasts of hot afternoon sun. A container in light shade will be perfect.

Stay tuned for poinsettia postings later this season.

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