Gardening with Evelyn: Poinsettia tips, facts and fiction


It’s a good idea to give your poinsettia a name. Patti or Peter works well. Maybe poinsettias really can hear.

Evelyn Weidner
(File photo)

The beautiful red or multi-colored flowers are really modified leaves called bracts. The green poinsettia leaves begin to change color in the fall and get red by Christmas. Poinsettia growers fool Patti into thinking it is time to bloom by manipulating the length of the day. Yes, you can do this with last year’s poinsettia but you need to start this in March. Then in early August you can do this by putting Patti into the closet every night at dinner and take her out in time for breakfast. First you need to clean out the closet! Begin around Labor Day and continue for about six or so weeks. When the leaves begin to turn red you can stop putting Patti in the closet and she will keep on turning red.

Fiction and truth. Are poinsettias poisonous? Poinsettias are toxic to cats but not to people. However, they have no flavor and make an expensive snack. It is always a good idea to keep all plants, including your poinsettia, away from pets and children.

Can I put my poinsettia outside? Patti will be happy almost anywhere. Indoors or in your garden. If your poinsettias are outdoors, protect them from frost or hot dry winds. Your poinsettia will dry out faster outside. Tip: to keep your poinsettias from falling over, set them in a heavier pot or sink them a little way into the ground.

Did poinsettias originate in Encinitas? The Paul Ecke family made the poinsettia into the holiday plant of today and thousands of poinsettias were grown at the Ecke Ranch on Saxony Road in Encinitas. New Ecke poinsettia varieties are still being created and are popular worldwide. Weidner’s Gardens is a local nursery that grows many Ecke poinsettia varieties. You will also find Ecke varieties in garden centers anywhere in the world.

Care: Water Patti well at least twice a week and let her drain. The smaller the pot the more often you may need to water. Ice cubes are OK . To know how much water six cubes equal melt them in a measuring cup. Do not let your poinsettia dry out to the point of really wilting. If you do that most of your leaves are already dead and will fall off in five days leaving you with ugly bare stems. Don’t let your poinsettia sit in water. The roots will drown. If your plant has a pretty pot cover be sure to remove it when you water. Patti doesn’t like wet feet.

If you take good care of Patti she will last well past the holidays. When you are tired of Patti, you may throw her away without guilt. After all she is just a plant, not your favorite Aunt Maggie. For more details, including how to rebloom Patti, go into Weidner’s Gardens and ask for their “Poinsettia Growing Instructions.”