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Enjoy Your Poinsettia Beyond the Holidays—Poinsettia Pointers from the Plant Doctor 

St. Paul, Minn. (November 20, 2003)—The poinsettia is commonly found in North American homes during the holiday season. But did you know that poinsettias are tropical plants that originated in Central America and tropical Mexico? 

Beloved by the Aztecs of Mexico as a symbol of purity, poinsettias grow as unbranched trees up to a height of 10 feet. Joel Robert Poinsettee, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and renowned botanist, first introduced them to the United States in the early 1800s. Since then, plant pathologists have been working with growers to provide the wonderful array of colors, sizes, and growth habits that are available today. 

The Plant Doctors at the American Phytopathological Society (APS) offer the following poinsettia tips to help keep your plants healthy throughout-and beyond-this holiday season:

  • Remember to keep your poinsettias in a sunny place for at least six hours each day, and move them to a cool spot (not below 60º F) during the night.

  • Don't let the leaves touch cold windows or expose the plant to high temperatures. Hot or cold drafts will cause the poinsettia to drop its leaves.

  • Keep the soil moist and water when the surface feels dry. Allow the water to wet the soil ball thoroughly, but discard the excess moisture. Do not let the plant sit in water; empty the saucer promptly.

  • After blooming is over, fertilizer will help keep the poinsettia healthy and promote new growth throughout the year.

  • Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. The Poisindex Information Service says that even at high levels of ingestion, there is no toxicity. Keeping them away from pets or small children, however, is still a good idea, since they can cause stomachaches if ingested.

  • Happy Holidays from the plant doctors at the American Phytopathological Society. The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and management of plant disease with 5,000 members worldwide.