By Janice Brown of On the Grow
Christmas time is here again and undoubtedly, you’re seeing poinsettias everywhere. If you love the poinsettias you have in your home, you can plant them in your landscape and enjoy them naturally for many years to come.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a poinsettia bush growing in a yard in the Houston Museum District. It was about 5 feet in height, had a bushy form, and was just getting its Christmas colors. I couldn’t help stopping to take it all in for a few minutes, all the while hoping the home owner wasn’t calling the cops about the this weirdo standing on his lawn. This lead me to do a little research and I found that not only will they grow into rather large bushes, we can also get to watch them transform from green to red in the winter for a little Christmas magic!
Poinsettias are tropical and are native to Mexico. In Mexico it’s a fairly common shrub that grows 10-15 feet. The “flowers” we refer to are actually leaves and only the tiny yellow center is the true flower. As the days grow shorter, the darkness triggers blooming, so you get the special colored leaves or bracts that surround the flower. There are over 100 hundred varieties of poinsettias which range in color from reds, pinks, and creams. Poinsettias got their US name from Joel Roberts Poinsett who first brought them to the United States from Mexico. In other regions of the world, they go by different names such as lobster flower. It is closely associated with Christmas because the plant blooms around this time.
- The first step is to find just the right spot. While they are natural sun-lovers, they need 12-14 hours of darkness each night starting in October to help them get their best color. So find a spot that receives sun, but a little shade in the afternoon won’t hurt. Avoid planting near street or porch lights. Make sure the soil drains well in the area, so for those of us with clay soil, that will mean adding soil amendments.
- Plant when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. Since it’s a tropical, this lessens the chance of a freeze killing it.
- Plant as you would any other transplant, but if adding soil amendments, dig the hole twice the size of the root ball and backfill with well-draining soil that has plenty of composted matter. Water well after planting.
- Begin feeding the plant when new growth starts to appear.
- As the plant grows, you can keep it trimmed to your liking, as they tend to be leggy in the wild. However, stop trimming after about mid-August to get ready for the bloom period.
- In October, check to make sure the plant is in complete darkness for 12-14 hours overnight, you can even cover it at night if you’d like.
- If there is any hint of a freeze warning, cover the plant. Cut back any stems damaged by cold temperatures.
If you follow these simple steps, you can enjoy a poinsettia or a group of them in your landscape for years to come. Just watch out for the curious by-passers who may end up on your lawn!
On the Grow is a garden coaching service launched by Janice Brown to teach people how to be successful gardeners in the sometimes difficult, Gulf Coast climate. On the Grow provides garden education for the home gardener, children in outdoor classrooms, neighbors in community gardens, and employees in workplace gardens. Whether you want a new idea for a girls’ night out, a new way to engage children in nature, or want to implement a fresh wellness program in your company, On the Grow is here for you. Your coach will take you step by step teaching you the basics, while presenting you with a fresh perspective by helping you experience the healing benefits of gardening. Our mission at On the Grow is to help everyone experience the joy of a garden and build a greater connection to Mother Earth. Connect with One The Grow on Facebook and Twitter!