You bought a poinsettia. Now what?

This year marks the CSU Horticulture Center’s 27th annual poinsettia sale. Each year, students in the department’s floriculture practicum grow the plants to be sold in December. The tradition gives the students great, hands-on experience and spreads holiday cheer throughout the Fort Collins community. 

Poinsettias most commonly are a bright red color, hence the popularity during the holidays, but they also can come with pink, white, yellow, purple, salmon or multi-colored leaves. In fact, there are over 100 varieties of the plant.

Although these flowers make a great gift for a loved one or a lovely centerpiece at the dinner table, they can be tricky to take care of. They require the right temperature, sunlight and amounts of water.

Ironically, the plant that often represents the holiday season is native to warm, tropical climates. Physician and botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced poinsettias to the United States from Mexico in 1825. Due to this, it is best to keep poinsettias away from drafty areas of the house and keep them humid. Misting them with water occasionally or placing them by a humidifier can be beneficial. 

Poinsettias also require lots of sunlight. They should be placed in south-, west-, or east-facing windows. However, beware of cool windows – when the poinsettia’s leaves, called bracts, touch the cold glass, they will wither up and fall off. 

In order to keep poinsettias healthy and growing, they must be watered correctly. The plant should be watered when the soil is noticeably dry. It is important to avoid over-watering poinsettias as well. A sign of overwatering is the bracts turning yellow and falling off. If ever in doubt, it is best to under-water poinsettias rather than over-water them. 

Another thing to watch out for when taking care of a poinsettia is the sap. This plant oozes a milky substance that can irritate the skin after contact. The sap can also cause nausea in pets. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous, but if eaten they can induce vomiting.

Although poinsettias can be a more difficult plant to take care of, they are beautiful plants that can spruce up any room in the house.