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Sunday - October 07, 2007

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native poinsettia care
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a poinsettia that I have nursed from last Christmas. It is in big pot and looks really good. I'm trying to make it bloom. I have it out front with a sw exposure. I'm afraid of too much sun Can I plant is outside and if so what exposure? All shade?


Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia, was introduced to th U.S. in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett (guess where the common name of the plant came from?), first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico who obtained plants from the wilds of southern Mexico. Since then, hybridization and constant research have created many different cultivars, with varied colors and bloom sizes. But they still need special treatment in order to bloom at all, and certainly to bloom at a specific time.

Apparently, you are not the only person to be puzzled by this, because we found a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer to a very similar question. Rather than try to improve on the work someone has already done, we will just borrow it, and ask you to follow the above link. That question and answer was dated a little later in the year than this, so perhaps you will be able to get your poinsettia to bloom by Christmas time instead of Valentine's, as suggested. However, it is also true that a poinsettia needs year round special attention, so please go to this link on care of poinsettias. If it is too late to have a Christmas centerpiece this year, at least, you will know what to do in the next year to care for it and let it be beautiful for Christmas 2008!

Having originated from southern Mexico, the poinsettia, of course, is not in the usual area of expertise for Mr. Smarty Plants, as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (our home) is focused on the care, protection and propagation of plants native to North America. But guess what? There are two pointsettias, Euphorbia cyathophora (fire on the mountain), and Euphorbia heterophylla (Mexican fireplant), not only native to North America but found in Texas. They are not as spectacular. nor with as many variations as the non-native Euphorbia pulcherrima, but they might be fun to try in your garden. And, since you live in the Austin area, why don't you check out the Fall Plant Sale on October 13 and 14 at the Wildflower Center. And, you can look at a list of the plants (with pictures) at the Plant List site. It doesn't appear a native poinsettia will be for sale this fall, but a lot of other neat stuff is.


Euphorbia cyathophora

Euphorbia heterophylla



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