I recently returned from a trip to India, and while visiting a friend in his garden outside Delhi, I was struck by one brilliantly colored, red plant. This five-foot-tall and -wide plant looked familiar. Upon closer inspection, it was a poinsettia.
While we mostly know poinsettias as those potted holiday plants, they actually are a shrub in their native Mexico.
The name comes from an American who brought them into the gardening trade. Joel Poinsett started propagating them in the 1700s, and they quickly caught on as a colorful plant that blooms around Christmas.
The red, white, or pink petals we see around the holidays are actually modified leaves, or brachts. With shorter days and cooler temperatures, the brachts turn colors right in time for the holidays.
Now growers are getting even more creative, spraying colorful glitter on the leaves, too.
But what to do with your poinsettia after the holidays?
The simplest solution is to compost it. Yes, you can get them to rebloom next year, but you'll have to prune it back, nurse it along in a pot outdoors all summer, then give it 14 hours of complete darkness at night in fall for weeks, while making sure it gets eight hours of light during the day to stay alive.
I'd rather let the growers do the hard work.
One falsehood about poinsettias is the leaves are poisonous. The leaves can cause a mild stomach upset in pets and kids when ingested, but a child would have to eat hundreds of leaves to really get sick, and frankly, they aren't that tasty!
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about uses for your holiday tree. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.