The Christmas Star represents one of the most widespread ornamental plants and given away during the end of year holidays. For several decades now, Christmas celebrations have been associated with this variety of Mexican origin, due to its characteristic colors. Yet few manage to keep it lush even once the holidays are over, as the species is decidedly delicate and sensitive to climatic changes. But what are the peculiarities of the plant, how to cultivate it and, above all, how to cure it over time?
Like all exotic and imported varieties, even the poinsettia may struggle to adapt to the typical climate of the boot. For this reason, cultivation and care take place almost exclusively in the home. Here are some useful indications.
Christmas star: what it is
Poinsettia is the common name of theEuphorbia pulcherrima, an ornamental plant native to Mexico and belonging to the family of Euphorbiaceae. In the United States and Europe, the introduction of this variety is quite recent: it dates back to the mid-1800s, when it was chosen as a decorative plant for the Christmas holidays. It is precisely in this period that other names were also associated with the species, in particular that of Poinsettia: it was in fact the ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett who imported the first examples in the United States.
The plant is characterized by a bushy habit and large shiny green leaves, with an oval and slightly pointed shape. The flower of the plant is a small one ciazio yellow in color and, unlike common beliefs, does not involve the red parts of the species. In fact, the Poinsettia develops a corolla of intense and lively red leaves – called brattee – which take on this color just before flowering. And this is precisely the peculiarity that has made it famous all over the world, while the flowers take a secondary position.
In the places of origin the poinsettia can reach considerable heights, even a few meters, while in Italy it tends to remain a small pot variety for a long time. The climatic conditions of the boot do not in fact allow an extreme development.
Colors and meaning of the plant
As already mentioned, the plant is known to most for its bracts of intense red color, associated with the Christmas season. Yet not everyone knows that Euphorbia exist more than 120 varieties, from the most varied colors: pale pink, deep pink, fuchsia, burgundy, white, cream and different shades of yellow.
In addition to the colors, there are just as many meanings related to this floral variety. Known in Central America since the time of the Aztecs, it was chosen as a tribute to the gods, as a symbol of strength and purity.
Later it became one of the symbols of Mexico, thanks also to a local legend. A girl very poor, she had long wanted to give flowers to the church of her country, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Having no money to buy a bouquet of flowers, he decided to look for flowers outdoors, but found weeds in the desert. Suddenly the little girl heard a voice, which suggested that she take the weeds to the church anyway: once inside the building, the brambles turned into splendid red stars.
Because Poinsettia is associated with Christmas
For what reasons, however, is this plant associated with Christmas? In addition to the Mexican tradition, linked to the Child Jesus, much derives from the characteristics of the plant:
- Winter flowering: since Euphorbia reaches its maximum splendor during the winter, with a flowering between December and January, the great availability has made it a perfect species for the Christmas holidays;
- Colors: the red of the bracts, the green of the leaves and the white and yellow of the small flowers are typically associated with Christmas;
- Introduction in the USA: in the United States, the plant was imported just before the end of the year celebrations. This strengthened their association with Christmas.
Not everyone knows, however, that the plant in some countries is not chosen for the end of year holidays. In France, where it takes the name of Star of Love, is chosen to celebrate Mother’s Day, while in Central and South America it is a perfect variety for couples, as a symbol of passion.
Poinsettia and pets: what to do
The Christmas star has become a very widespread species, especially among November e January: in every home there is at least one example, as it is often offered as a gift or present in Christmas baskets.
However, care must be taken, as this cultivation could pose a risk to the pets, come dogs e cats. In fact, the small twigs contain a white sticky substance, called latex, with irritating potential. In addition to causing dermatological problems, if the four-legged friends swallow or nibble parts of the plant they risk intoxication.
For this reason, it is good to place the plant in places inaccessible to pets, such as very high shelves or protected furniture.
How to grow the poinsettia
In our latitudes, the cultivation of the poinsettia occurs almost exclusively in glass, inside the houses. This is because the plant needs temperatures between 15 and 24 degrees perpetually, so it would suffer too much outdoors. However, it is not impossible to create some pretty bushes in the garden, especially if you live in the southern regions, where the temperature they are mild throughout the year.
Necessity of the plant
Before proceeding with cultivation, it is good to evaluate the need for Poinsettia and check that they are compatible with your place of residence. Among the many are listed:
- Climate: this vegetable always requires temperatures between 15 and 24 degrees and, possibly, a fairly humid environment;
- Ground: Euphorbia prefers a soft, draining soil, to avoid water stagnation on the roots. Furthermore, it also appreciates sandy soils or soils enriched with peat;
- Solar spraying: Poinsettia loves light, but not excessively. For this reason, it is good to choose a position in dim light, where the sun’s rays can reach but slightly filtered;
- Watering: not frequent, but not scarce either. Take the solidity of the soil as a reference: if it is too dry, it means that the plant needs water. However, during the flowering period, the poinsettia should be watered approximately every two days.
Growing in pots and gardens
In Italy the poinsettia is hardly grown for seme, also because most of those produced are infertile. The most common method is that of transplanting seedlings, thanks to the large availability of specimens in the period of December, or by cutting.
The talea it can be carried out from spring to June, by choosing an apical branch and cutting it cleanly: the operation will cause the irritating latex to come out, so it is advisable to use gloves. The cut branch will then have to be placed in peat and sand until the roots appear.
It is certainly no secret: the poinsettia is one of the most showy plants, but also difficult to keep viable for a long time. There are many fans who cannot get over the holiday season or, again, reach the following spring. And yet, with due diligence cure this strain can really last a long time.
Because the poinsettia loses its leaves and dies
the leaves they represent an index of the health of the poinsettia and, for this reason, when a copious fall occurs, the variety could be close to death. But what causes leaf fall? The reasons can be the most disparate:
- Mites and molds: Poinsettia is a very delicate vegetable and, unfortunately, attracts mites, aphids, scale insects and molds. It is necessary to check frequently, especially in the most hidden parts of the plant, such as on the bases of the stems;
- Sudden changes in heat: sudden changes in temperature, or climates that are too cold or too hot, can quickly lead to the deterioration of the plant;
- Wrong watering: Excessive or, on the contrary, too little irrigation, ruin the root system of the plant.
As already mentioned, when the leaves begin to fall there are not many chances of recovery of the plant, which risks dying within a few weeks.
It must be said, there are no guarantees that our Christmas star it blooms every year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save the plant anyway. Its green and showy foliage is in fact always very decorative. The care of the Poinsettia, after the Christmas holidays, begins with adequate growing conditions.
The plant should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight indirectly every day and, to encourage flowering, even at daytime temperatures between 18 ° and 21 ° C, slightly cooler at night. This avoids the problem of falling leaves.
The routine of irrigation classic should be kept until spring, while towards April or May, we proceed with pruning and repotting in a larger container. In this step, we water abundantly and place the plant on a sunny window. From this moment on, we periodically check the humidity of the soil and water only when it appears dry to the touch.
Every two weeks, we fertilize the soil with a fertilizer for houseplants for all uses. In early summer, when night temperatures rise above 10 ° C, we can move the plant outdoors to a slightly shady place.
From the first half of July, we prune again, cutting about 2.5 cm of terminal growth from each stem. Another one pruning it is suggested towards the first part of September, keeping 3 or 4 leaves per shoot. In this way lateral branching is favored. But now let’s see how to make it bloom again in time for Christmas.
The tricks to make Poinsettia bloom again
Poinsettias don’t take a long time to bloom and form those colorful bracts we love so much. The right way to promote flowering it is, generally from the beginning of October, to keep the plant in total darkness for about 12 hours a day. Just keep it in a dark room or cover it with a large box every night, and then bring the plant back into the light for the rest of the day.
At the beginning of December, the poinsettia can finish the dark cure and should instead be placed in a sunny area for at least six hours a day. During this time we can reduce the use of fertilizer and water. If we have been lucky and have been careful in the care, Poinsettia will reward us with a new colorful bloom.
If not, we will still have our plant still healthy, ready to give a nice touch of green to the house.
Source: GreenStyle by www.greenstyle.it.
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