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Growing and Caring for Poinsettia

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

This article will detail how to grow and care for the beloved poinsettia.

This article will detail how to grow and care for the beloved poinsettia.

No longer just the old familiar bright red, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are now available in a multitude of colors, from pink, white, deep rosy red, and orange-red, to variegated pink and cream, a marbled red and white, and now a yellowish white. I love them all and had several in my garden when we lived in central Florida.

Each Christmas season, I added at least one to my collection. The last holiday season we were there, I added two of the red-and-white and one of the pink-and-creamy white. These were very small and still in pots until after the holidays. The pink-and-cream one (shown above) was, and still is, my favorite.

They Can Be Planted in the Ground in Spring

After the danger of freezing temperatures had passed, usually mid-March, I planted them in my garden. If you live in an area with colder temperatures, you can still grow these tropical beauties outdoors in pots. Just be sure to take them inside in winter.

The pink-and-white and the solid white ones added a nice splash of color to the night garden I was creating in our back yard. What's a night garden? I have an entire article on the subject, Simple Steps to Creating a Night Garden, that I think you’ll enjoy.

Here you see the colors still changing as Christmas nears. It was planted in one of the flower beds at our former home in central Florida. I wonder if it’s still alive.

Here you see the colors still changing as Christmas nears. It was planted in one of the flower beds at our former home in central Florida. I wonder if it’s still alive.

Euphorbia pulcherrima Are Hardy in Zones 10 and 11

Poinsettia are cold hardy in Zones 10 to 11. For info on caring your poinsettia during and after the holidays, check out my article Keeping Poinsettia Alive After the Holidays.

Not familiar with USDA Cold Hardiness Zones? Take a look at the map below.

One More Thing to Consider: Hardiness

Poinsettias are said to be cold hardy in USDA Zones 9-11. We lived in Zone 9a which is north of 9b, and our poinsettias did suffer some freeze damage when we had an unexpected drop to 32° F, and they had not been covered. So take no chances if you have below-freezing temperatures. These tropical shrubs are happiest at temps above 50° F.

The Color of the Veins Betray the Color the Bracts Will Be

The photo below is of my Breast Cancer Poinsettia (a deep, rich pink) which was taken in late November, just as the leaves were changing color. When I bought it in October, it had been forced into changing color in time for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

During spring and summer, when all the leaves are green, you may forget which ones are which. I did. Then I noticed something really neat. The stems and veins in the leaves of the red and pink ones have a reddish or pink color. The veins of the white ones are green.

Notice the pink veins in these leaves. It's how I can tell what color the plant will be before the leaves change color.

Notice the pink veins in these leaves. It's how I can tell what color the plant will be before the leaves change color.

Internal Changes Are Triggered by Seasonal Changes

The internal changes that trigger the color change also tell the plant to form the flower buds. Those changes begin when the days get shorter, the light less intense, and the temperatures begin to drop. The flowers are quite small, and are easily missed. Below is one of my white poinsettia with buds almost ready to open, followed by another closer view of those buds.

Here's a closer look at those tiny buds. They should be opening any day now.

Here's a closer look at those tiny buds. They should be opening any day now.

An even closer look at those same flower buds.

An even closer look at those same flower buds.

Hurricane Irma Damaged a Lot of Our Plants

The photos above are close-up shots from the large shrub below. It was in our back yard for several years, and grew to about 4 feet tall — poinsettia are actually flowering shrubs. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma destroyed this one. We replaced it the following December, but it took a while before the new one became this large. Then we moved away. I can’t help wondering how it’s doing now.

This plant was large and gorgeous before Irma swept through.

This plant was large and gorgeous before Irma swept through.

Here is a shot of this beauty in summer. I know it’s the white one because the stems and veins are a greenish-white. Or is it a whitish-green?

Here is a shot of this beauty in summer. I know it’s the white one because the stems and veins are a greenish-white. Or is it a whitish-green?

A Little History

Although poinsettia grew in Central America and Africa for centuries before this, it wasn't until 1828, when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, made a trip there on behalf of President John Quincy Adams. Mr. Poinsett was a botanist who was both skilled and passionate about plants. When visiting Taxco, he was impressed with the gorgeous countryside, and saw the brilliant red leaves of this unfamiliar flowering shrub.

He had a greenhouse at his South Carolina home, and quickly began shipping the plants there so he could cultivate and study them. Soon, he began sharing them with his friends and family at Christmas time. It was 1836 before the plant attained the popular name of “Poinsettia” after the man who first introduced it to the United States, and began a holiday tradition that continues today.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 MariaMontgomery

Your Comments Are Always Welcome

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 21, 2021:

Yep.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 21, 2021:

Could be. I've noticed that it's my articles in Dengarden & Delishably, etc., that have the most problems with comments.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 21, 2021:

Maria, if I don't catch an article before it's swept to Discover or a niche site, I can only comment via my feed. The problem is, the articles don't always show the same day I receive notification. So, I've taken to scrolling my feed, opening the article in a new tab, then commenting via feed. It's cumbersome and the articles/comments don't always show in real time. I wonder if this is a result of HP working on tweaking Maven's software to allow comments. Maybe that's what's causing the inconsistencies and "drops".

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 21, 2021:

The golf cart thing can be fun, but after just 2 or 3 years it got old for me. In hot weather, I would arrive somewhere damp and sticky. In cold weather, well, it was just too cold. The wind always left me with what I called “golf cart hair”. On the other hand, we saved a lot of money on gas using the cart for short trips.

About comments, I have clicked on “comments” on the feed page, and on the page with the list of articles. Sometimes those work. My biggest problem is commenting on someone else’s article that I’ve read and enjoyed. There are older comments visible, but no comment box for new comments. Oh, well. Maybe they’ll get it fixed eventually.

Maybe you could try writing in Word at work, then emailing it to yourself for using later. I use a Mac, so I can type something in notes then pull it up in Notes on my iPhone. This works well for Instagram (IG) where typing a post on the computer is not allowed – grrrr. I just open Notes on my phone, copy what I typed on the laptop, then paste it to IG on my phone. More than one way to beat the system, right?

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 20, 2021:

I've got friends who live there, too. They're very involved in dance and that's pretty much what they do there. I've never heard speak of their involvement in the political rallies, or the golf carts, for that matter. I guess it all boils down to the company you keep.

Another thought about not seeing my comment on your mulch article: Try looking at the article in Author View in your Account page or clicking on "comments" on the top right of your feed page. I've seen comments that way that I somehow missed. The comment I left on that particular article is quite lengthy, so there's no way I could reproduce it in an email to you.

Until HP/Maven gets this comment thing sorted out I'm almost thinking I should write them in Word and copy/paste. That way I'd have record of them. The downside is, most of the time I read HP while I'm at work, so Word there is not Word here at home. Bummer. I hope comments come back soon. We were promised by the end of June, but here it is nigh on the end of August and nothing but crickets.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 20, 2021:

I’ll do that. He did. His fans still hold what they call rallies & golf cart parades without him. I’m so glad we were not there for that because it ties up traffic, and they are very in-your-face about it. It’s crazy.

The Villages is very seductive when you first visit. It’s almost like living in a resort, but I think it leads to a hedonistic lifestyle for too many folks. Don’t misunderstand – there are plenty of good, honest, people there, and we have friends there who we stay in touch with. We aren’t the only ones who left, though. A lot of our friends left, also. There are loads of things to do. Any hobby you have, there’s a group (or 3 or 4) doing that hobby. I joined the Genealogy Society, and I miss it. I also miss my many master gardener friends. But I’m rambling. Thanks again for reading my article.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 20, 2021:

Thank you, Amara. So glad you liked it.

Amara from Pakistan on August 20, 2021:

Interesting and informative Hub..

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 20, 2021:

Check your feed for the comment, Maria. It might take a while for it to show up on the actual article.

Yeah, The Villages is a huge retirement community. I've heard of the politics that rages on there. In fact, I think Trump held a rally there. I don't blame you for getting out. I think the only appealing factor of The Villages for those who aren't politically inclined is the fun of driving a golf cart everywhere you go!

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 20, 2021:

Thanks you. I really enjoyed growing them. I now have a lot of artificial ones in the attic that I take out the day after Thanksgiving, and leave out through most of January. It would be too hard to keep them alive here. We were in The Villages, about 30 miles south of Ocala. We were there for 7 years, but the greed of the owners of the community, and the extreme politics got too much for us. Also, property tax went up by 25%. That was the last straw for us. You also commented on my article about mulch, but when I followed the link HP sent me, there is no comment or comment box there. That seems to be the case with every Dengarden article I've seen. So thank you for commenting on it, too. If you want to send me your comment by email, you can reach me at gardenerandcookblog@gmail.com for all food and gardening articles. Thanks again.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 20, 2021:

Interesting history of the poinsettia, Maria. I, too, used to plant them in the ground once Christmas was over. They lasted for years. Then they were no more. I wonder what happened to them? Hmmm. Well, Christmas comes every year, so I do have the opportunity to grow them again.

Where in Central Florida did you live, Maria? That's where I am.

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