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One of the images associated with the holiday season of Christmas is the bright and cheery beauty of poinsettias with their red and green leaves. Most often mistaken for flowers, the red leaves are unique to this flower, though there are other varieties like pink, cream, white, orange and even mixed color varieties.

Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, are native to Central America and Mexico. It grows in rocky hillsides and in wet and moist wooded ravines. The exquisite flower is named after the U.S. minister to Mexico who introduced it to floriculture and popularized it, Joel R. Poinsett.

The red foliage, often thought to be the flower of the plant, is a bunch of bracts. The flowers of this plant are tiny and yellow in color. When you know how to grow poinsettias, it is easy to see why they are so alluring.

How to grow poinsettias as Houseplants

Though these bright leafed plants belong to the ravines, they are treated as specially bred houseplants. They are bought mostly during Christmas, and often discarded when their red leaves fall off.

The United States Department of Agriculture and various other nurseries consider these as plants, as they can grow up to 12 feet when in the wild. However, they do not grow to such heights at home.

A Bit of History

Originally, the striking red leaves of this plant were used to decorate the churches in Guatemala and in Mexico. There are also records of the Aztecs using this plant for medicinal purposes.

National Poinsettia Day

The must-have charm of this plant and its sheer brilliance has made it synonymous with many Christmas celebrations and earned it a very special place. However, it wasn’t always this popular. They were brought into the U.S by Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the then American ambassador posted at Mexico. National Poinsettia Day is celebrated on December 12, every year, as Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett December 12, 1851.

Fun facts about Poinsettias

· Poinsettias are the most popular potted plants sold in the US every year, according to USDA.

· Though it originated from Mexico, it is grown abundantly in the US, with California being the largest producer.

· The Paul Ecke Ranch in Guatemala is the largest facility in the world

How to Grow Poinsettias

All it needs is a bit of nutrition and care for the poinsettias to flourish as houseplants all through the year. They definitely are not your regular holiday décor!

Since they are used to warmer climates, they may have to be brought indoors during the winter, but you can successfully grow them in flower beds outside the rest of the year.

Buy plants that have grown sufficiently

When you are just starting out on finding out how to grow poinsettias, it might be wise to get a plant that has grown sufficiently to need minimal care. There are a number of established plants that you can choose from.

Tip: Instead of buying one leading up to Christmas, get a good one post-Christmas. It may be cheaper, and you have a better chance of finding an established plant.

Grow Additional plants

Once you get comfortable with growing poinsettias, it may be time to harvest seeds or to get a cutting growing from branches of established plants. It is easier to grow poinsettias from cuttings rather than from seeds.

The best time of the year to get cuttings is in summer, as that is when there will be a growth spurt. A good pair of shears or scissors may be used to cut the branches of the poinsettias, ensuring a length of 3 inches.

The end of the branch that is cut should be placed in rooting hormones, sand and perlite. The next step would be to create a greenhouse, with a plastic bag that covers the entire pot. You can place the pot outside during summer. However, if there is frost during winter in the area where you live, you have o bring it inside.

How to grow Poinsettias from Seeds

You can get the seeds from the established plant that you have at home. You will find the seeds at the center of all the exhilarating foliage, especially when the foliage turns brown. Carefully take the seeds out and then dry them. Once they are dry, the pods will open up to expose the seeds. One way of drying the seeds is to place them in a bag and to let them dry. If all this sounds too hard, then you can order the seeds online.

Planting the seeds

Once you get the seeds, plant them, one seed in every pot. They should be placed one inch below the ground. Remember to place the pot in a room with sunlight, but it should not be placed in direct sunlight.

The saplings will take nearly two weeks to appear. Till then, ensure that the soil is moist.

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How to grow poinsettias and care for them

1) Place the poinsettias indoors and away from the frost during the cold winter season.

2) During summer, they should be kept in a warm room with no direct sunlight or wind draft.

3) Do not keep them near fireplaces or heating vents.

4) They should be maintained at a temperature between 60-70 degree range.

5) Water the plants and add fertilizer regularly to ensure optimal growth of the plants

6) It may be necessary to repot them after a few months

7) When the temperature remains above 50 degrees for a few days, you can place the pot outside

Caution when growing Poinsettias

A description on how to grow poinsettias will not be complete without the mild warnings that this plant warrants. Though it has brilliant leaves that have captured the imagination of numerous families across the world, they can’t be eaten. Their brilliance remains in their color and visual beauty and not in consuming them. They cannot be eaten, even if they do not cause harm.

Remember to wear a good pair of gloves when growing poinsettias as the white sap that they exude is likely to lead to skin rashes. Most importantly, avoid all contact with eyes and mouth. The tools that you use should also be washed thoroughly, to remove all traces of the sap.

Care for indoor plants

It is important to care well for indoor plants as they may attract insects. Remember, when the plant is healthy, it rarely attracts insects. So, ensure that the plant is growing well.

Here are some tips to avoid insects

· Select plants that can be grown indoors

· Ensure that the plant gets proper care

· Inspect the plants regularly for insects

· As soon as insect growth is detected, isolate the plants

· Move the plants outdoors and separate from other plants

· Get a good insect spray and spray, following instructions

Water Needs

· Water the soil and not on leaves

· Drain the pot of the plant so water does not stagnate. This could lead to growth of infection or even make the plant wilt due to excess water

· Do not let the plants stay immersed in water.

· Remove dead leaves from the pot

Adding fertilizer

· Identify how much nutrition your plant needs to look and grow healthy

· Always apply only half the recommended amount of fertilizer

· Keep the plants healthy and clean

· Indoor plants should be cleaned with a damp cloth. There is no need to use any chemicals

If the plant grows too tall, remember to trim it so that it grows into a healthy bush. There are plenty of sterile pots available. The soil from the garden should not be used to grow indoor plants, as they may have insects growing in them.

Poinsettias are season plants that add a bright cheer to every corner that they adorn in your house. Once you learn how to grow poinsettias by stem cutting or even from seeds, it will become easy to continue growing them all year. Their presence need not be limited to brief holiday seasons but may be extended to add charm throughout.

It is very simple to grow these alluring breeds of plants. It will also be extremely exciting to use your home-grown poinsettias to decorate during christmas, instead of buying them from the store. There will be increased satisfaction and you have the liberty to begin decorating, long before anyone else in your neighborhood has. Since the steps on how to grow poinsettias are all very simple, you do not have to hire specialists to grow them for you.

Their brilliant foliage will also add spark to your house when you have guests over. No other Christmas decoration is as attractive as poinsettias. All you have to do it to find out how to grow poinsettias and you have great looking home décor for all your memorable gatherings, as well as for your own enjoyment throughout the year.