Northwest NEWS

December 18, 2000

Local News

Poinsettias have become a holiday tradition from Molbak's

* Native to tropical Mexico, poinsettias were first brought to the United States by Joel Poinsett, a noted botanist and the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Naturally blooming at Christmas, they have become a holiday tradition.
   The brightly colored parts of the poinsettia are actually not flowers, they are instead specialized leaves, called bracts, which form immediately prior to the appearance of the tiny flowers.
   Thanks to extensive hybridization, there are now numerous colors of poinsettias from which to choose. Molbak's grows over 36 different varieties.
   Light: To keep poinsettias thriving, they require high light. However, if you intend to keep them just through the holidays, they can be placed in the lower light of a room's interior.
   Water: Thoroughly water poinsettias when the soil feels dry to the touch and before the plant wilts. A poinsettia will lose its lower leaves if it is allowed to wilt. When watering, continue to add water until it runs out the drain holes. Remember to remove all water that accumulates in the saucer in order to prevent the roots from decaying.
   Fertilizer: To retain a poinsettia's bright colors, Molbak's recommends waiting until early spring to resume fertilizing poinsettias. Thereafter, apply fertilizer during the months of March though October.
   Temperature: Poinsettias maintain their intense colors with temperatures around 64 Fahrenheit. Being tropical plants, they grow best in 65 to 75, and damage easily in cold temperatures.
   Forcing into bloom: In order to flower, poinsettias require 12 to 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 10 hours of bright light each day for a two-month period.
   Molbak's brings poinsettias into bloom by extending the natural night length. Their production greenhouses are equipped with blackout curtains which, when fully extended, darken the interior of the greenhouses.
   The curtains are extended each afternoon and then pulled back every morning to allow sunlight to reach the plants. Additionally, the curtains serve to keep heat close to the plants instead of being lost through the greenhouse glass.
   In your home, this system may be modified to get your plant into bloom.
   Start in early September to give the plant daily uninterrupted darkness by covering it with a large box for 14 hours. Remove the box during the day so the plant receives 10 hours of bright light.
   By consistently providing this dark and light period each day for two months, your poinsettias will form colorful bracts in time for the holidays.
   Put an old myth to rest: Poinsettias are not poisonous. Since 1919, unconfirmed stories have circulated about the poinsettia.
   These have led to the unfounded belief that the plant is poisonous.
   To alleviate the public's fear concerning the poinsettia's alleged toxicity, the floral industry launched a scientific investigation.
   The research, conducted at Ohio State University effectively disproved the charge that the plant is harmful to human and animal health if parts of the plant are ingested.
   The American Medical Association, the POISINDEX Information Service, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission all state that poinsettias have not been found to produce toxicity.