Indoor plants

Poinsettia care

The Christmas star: where does it come from, why is it called that

The plant we know by the name of poinsettia is an ornamental plant native to Mexico, where it was noticed in 1520 by the Spaniards of Cortés who arrived in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, who also used it during the sacrifices they offered to the sun. However, the spread of the plant to the rest of the world took place thanks to Joel Robert Poinsett, United States ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829, who, fascinated by its extreme beauty, brought some specimens home and made it known in the United States. and in Europe. For this reason, in English-speaking countries, the poinsettia is known as Poinsettia, while the scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, that is the most beautiful of the euphorbias. It was the Spanish missionaries who baptized it Christmas Star for the characteristic shape of the inflorescence that resembles a star, and because the period of maximum flowering occurs towards the end of December. The beginning of its diffusion as a Christmas decoration dates back to 1899, when St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican was decorated with it for the first time on the night of December 24, arousing the admiration of the faithful.

The poinsettia: the characteristic appearance, the varieties

In its natural state, the poinsettia looks like a shrub that can reach 3-4 meters with very branched thin semi-woody stems and dark foliage. The species on the market that we are used to seeing, especially during the Christmas period, are hybrids created for domestic and ornamental use, therefore of reduced size and with original characteristics such as bracts of various colors (pink, white, yellow or even blue ) or variegated, double inflorescences or ruffled leaves. Those that are often mistakenly considered the petals of the flower, with their characteristic bright red color, about 15 cm long, are actually modified leaves, called bracts, which surround the actual flower. This is called cyathium and is typical of the genus euphorbia, it consists of a central female flower and male stamens around it, small, green or yellow and without petals. The inflorescence formed by cyathium and bracts can reach 30 cm in diameter. Reproduction takes place through woody cuttings obtained from the branches that brought the flowers.

The particular cultivation needs of the poinsettia

Poinsettia care is quite demanding, and requires constant attention that varies according to the time of year. The type species requires a constant temperature between 16 and 22 ° C; even if it can tolerate lower temperatures, it fears thermal changes and frost. It must be placed in an airy and sunny position, but away from direct sunlight. Being a photoperiod plant, its life cycle is governed by the amount of light it receives. In particular, flowering occurs in winter, when the duration of the day is shorter, therefore, if grown indoors, from October it is necessary to ensure that it spends at least 15 hours a day in the dark, possibly covering it. During the flowering period, the plant should be watered every 2-3 days, being very careful not to cause dangerous water stagnation.

Poinsettia Cure: Diseases

The poinsettia is a fairly delicate and often suffering plant, sometimes due to errors in cultivation, sometimes due to aggression by insects and parasites. The yellowing of the leaves and their consequent fall may depend both on the presence of air currents and, on the contrary, on an environment that is not adequately ventilated or too dry. If given too much water the roots can rot, and discolored areas can be seen on the bracts and leaves. One of the most insidious insects is the brown cochineal, which produces dark waxy formations on the leaves and can be easily spotted nestling under such formations. You can try to fight it by rubbing a cotton swab soaked in alcohol on the affected areas, if the treatment has no effect all that remains is to intervene with specific products. It is good to be careful in the care of the poinsettia, as contact with the latex that comes out of the cut parts can cause irritation and swelling. Flowers, leaves and stems also contain toxic substances that if ingested can cause nausea and vomiting, so it is good to keep pets away.

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