Designer clothes. Designer gardens. Designer jewelry. The word “designer” has been added to many product lines during the last decade or so, and that is certainly true in the gardening/plant world as well. New and exotic varieties are constantly being developed by plant breeders to satisfy the insatiable appetite that consumers have for unique plants in their gardens or living rooms. So it is no surprise that the poinsettia has also undergone a revolution and a myriad of new varieties has been developed.
The poinsettia is traditionally a Christmas plant, but there are many colours available now, besides the customary red. These plants can add beauty to the indoor décor throughout the winter months, long after the Christmas season has come and gone, without looking too “Christmasy.” The traditional red and green colour combination used for Christmas decorating in the past has long given way to mauve and burgundy, blue and silver or even pink and rose. These colours are easier to co-ordinate with the indoor décor of modern interiors. Besides the salmons and pinks, the whites and creams, and the deep burgundy shades that the plant breeders have developed in poinsettias, the industry has also developed methods of colouring white or cream poinsettias to match any décor. So, whether you want purple or blue, grey or silver, or even a particular shade of pink, any colour you choose is a possibility.
A poinsettia can be incorporated into a plant grouping in the indoor landscape or it can be displayed alone. Any plant is more pleasing to the eye when displayed in an attractive container and the poinsettia is no exception. During the holiday season the container might have a holiday motif, and then after the festive decorations are taken down, the plant can be exhibited in an attractive basket or a container made of ceramic or metal. If the bottom of the plant is a bit bare, some sphagnum moss tucked in around the base of the plant will enhance the appearance of the display.
Poinsettias will remain attractive and healthy for a couple of months if they are properly cared for. Poinsettias, however, are tropical plants – they originated in Mexico – so they resent being chilled. If a poinsettia is located in a cool or drafty location, it will soon deteriorate and become unattractive, so always place a poinsettia where there are no cold drafts and avoid placing the plant near an outside door which is often opened. If the plant is displayed on the floor (a poinsettia is a nice addition to a plant grouping on the floor) make sure cold air from an open door will not make its way to the plant.
Poinsettias like their soil to be consistently moist, but they should not be over-watered, and the pot should have good drainage. I like to take the plant to the sink and drench the soil and let all of the excess water completely drain out of the pot before I slip it back into its container. Remove the plant sleeve that comes with the plant to allow excess water to escape from the pot.
A bit of 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer can be added to the water every three weeks or so at half-strength if you have had the plant for more than a month, since the nutrients that were in the soil when it left the garden centre will be used up by then. If the leaves get dusty, a quick spray of water in the shower will refresh the foliage and give the plant new life.
A poinsettia will perform best if given good light. At this time of year the sunlight coming through the windows is weak and will not harm the plant. If the plant is exposed to very low light levels, it will deteriorate more quickly and not be attractive for as long a period.
If you can find a poinsettia in one of the new designer colours that co-ordinates with your indoor décor, you will enjoy it as part of your interior landscape for most of the winter.
– Albert Parsons writes from