A rash of red Euphorbia pulcherrima invaded Studio City this month. That’s not as scary as it sounds, so no need to get the calamine. We’re talking Poinsettias, as the bright red plant is known in English.
You Tube has a video proving that would be a three syllable pronunciation POIN SET UH (forget point set e yah once and for all!).
Sharing the stage with Santas, wire reindeer and wreaths these traditional holiday harbringers kick up the landscape’s cheere quotient a couple of notches, and best of all, one size fits all. As such, poinsettias provide the all purpose answer to that gnarly question: what’s the ideal hostess gift?
Further, Poinsettias deliver Instant Xmas cheer. No need to untangle yet another strand of made-in- china string lights, find the ladder and accidentally electrocute yourself. Just slather your abode with poinsettias.
Though December tradition dictates red petals, poinsettias also come in creamy white, orange, pale green, pink and marbled. There’s also a speckled jingle bell variety, whiloe Peppermint shows off swirly white and red stripes and cream and white is great for any upcoming winter celebration. Like bougainvillea—it’s the leaves (bracts) not the flowers that are the brightly colored stuff. The flowers in fact are little tiny yellow centers aka cyathi.
Native to Mexico, the plant's association with Christmas began south of the border in 16th Century. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. The plant was re-christened “Poinsettia” after U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who loved the plant so that he helped introduce it to America. For a century after, the Ecke family of California figured out a way to create a fuller, more compact plant, by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. Thus began their monopoly of the shrubby plant.
Easterners keep these plants indoors. But here, with our warm afternoons, poinsettias can stay outdoors. That’s the good news. But there’s alot of bad news if you want to keep the shrubby vegetation going for another season. They don’t like temps below 60 so with cool nights upon us, wish for the best and keep them out of the Santa Ana winds. Otherwise you’ll have premature leaf drop. And we all know how painful that can be.
Also after the initial display of color when you bring them home, the fussy plant will have another shot at a revival if given a period of uninterrupted long, dark nights for around two months in order to develop flowers. (That’s why we see poinsettias so prolific in winter.) Incidental light at night during this time will hamper flower production. Also to extend their season outdoors, make sure they don’t sit in water.
Contrary to old wives tales, the poinsettia is not poisonous, although it does contain latex which can cause an allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and CATS!
But hey. It’s time to entertain, to open gifts, ignore the Great Recession and traffic on the 101, car alarms going off at 1 A.M., lost checks in the mail and... Might I make a suggestion? Try the Poinsettia Cocktail—this recipe comes compliments of Emeril Lagasse:1/4 cup vodka, 1/4 cup Champagne, 1/2 cup cranberry juice, crushed ice, 2 strips orange zest, each about 1/4-inch wide and 2 inches long. That’s one serving. Make mine a double and have a happy holiday.
WHAT TO DO:
After the holidays, place the plant in a sunny window. No northern exposure.
To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F. during the day, 60 degrees at night will not hurt the plant unless it’s in the path of cold wind or an inside draft.
Don’t let the plant sit in water. It causes wilting and more leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived but it will take another season to look good.
Cut the stems back to about 4 inches and repot in a slightly larger container with new potting soil. Water well. And place in the brightest window you have. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks
Pinch the poinsettia, otherwise it will grow tall and spindly.
STEAL THIS IDEA:
For a holiday centerpiece or even a winter wedding display, gather as many as four or five small, low, fresh poinsettias in 3" to 4" pots. Use the same color. Put in a soup tureen or silver punch bowl. Add some florist styrofoam and insert trailing greenery around the base of the plants.