I always say I am not good with houseplants, but I love buying poinsettias for the festive season. They give so much pleasure with their colour-splashed bracts and they are everywhere at the moment – pale creamy white ones, bright red, and lipstick-pink. They come in all shapes and sizes from tiny single-shoot mini-plants to blowsy, room-filling numbers. Red is the traditional colour for Christmas, but there is a golden beige form and a light pink form too.
They need the best light possible. As for heat and cold – keep them away from cold draughts and windows and also away from any direct sources of heat, such as radiators and open fires. The ideal temperature for them to thrive is anything from 15–20C.
When you buy them choose healthy looking specimens where the coloured bracts are whole and unbroken and avoid plants that are sold from cold garage forecourts or draughty positions in a store. When you get them home, water them well so that the compost is thoroughly wet. Let it dry out between watering, but check the compost and water regularly. Don’t let the plants stand in water for long periods.
Poinsettias have a milky sap, which can cause skin and eye irritations, so avoid getting the sap on your skin or in your eyes; always wash your hands after handling poinsettias.
Florists and flower retailers have designated December 12 as International Poinsettia Day, so if you have managed to steer clear of them so far… I am sure they will be unavoidable in the run up to the seasonal celebrations.