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Poinsettias remain one of the most popular Christmas flowers because of their bright colors, which usually come in red and sometimes white. You should know that they are not exactly a type of flower but a plant with modified leaves known as bracts. The bracts are brightly colored to lure insects such as bees into the plant’s actual flowers in the center. Hybrid poinsettias have also become available, and they have other colors aside from the familiar red shade.
Here are some of the common misconceptions about poinsettias that you may still believe:
Poinsettias Contain Lethal Toxins
There are a lot of stories, most of them unverified, about the lethal toxins found in poinsettias. While you should not allow children and pets to chew leaves, the plant will only have little to no effect when they are just physically exposed to different plant parts. An exception would be touching the milky sap in the flower, which can cause mild skin irritation. This usually means that you might be allergic to the plant. Since it is not recommended to ingest the plant, you should not attempt to make a cocktail out of poinsettias despite some recipes being named after them. A holiday drink named after a poinsettia usually consists of cranberry juice, triple sec and champagne. Pomegranate juice can be used to make a pomegranate poinsettia cocktail. In other words, there is no trace of any plant parts in your drink.
You Can Make a Salad With Poinsettias
There are also salads that are named after the plant, but they do not really use the leaves and sap as the ingredients. Do not confuse poinsettia salads with the actual plant. The holiday food was possibly named because of the poinsettia’s festive color. Even if you find a recipe online that uses poinsettia leaves, it is best not to recreate it to avoid gastrointestinal complications. In addition, do not use poinsettias for medicinal purposes. The ancient Aztecs may have used the plant as an herbal treatment for fever, but it may not be as effective when used today.
You Can Grow Blue Poinsettias as Christmas Flowers
While there are different colors of poinsettia leaves, artificial colors such as blue and purple are achieved by using dyes and tints. The glittery poinsettia leaves that you may have seen at a flower shop may have used this technique to create an alternative color. It is likely safe to put them at home, but you should be sure that they are not within the reach of children and pets. But if you are planning to grow poinsettias at home, you should remember that the alternative colors to red leaves are yellow and pink. There are cream-colored leaves too.
Some types will have a combination of colors like the following:
- Tri-color poinsettia leaves with pink, red and white shades
- Plum pudding with a purple shade
- Prestige Maroon with a deep shade of maroon
- Lemon Drop with yellow-colored bracts
- Jingle Bells with red bracts and pink dots
The Tri-color and Jingle Bells varieties are probably the best choices for Christmas flowers.
How Poinsettias Got a Bad Reputation
In 1919, a U.S. Army officer found the lifeless body of his child whose hands were clutching some poinsettia leaves. The parents believed that their child had eaten the plant. There are other anecdotes that end up painting the poinsettia in a bad light, but the story about the dead child is possibly the most popular one. In reality, a child will have to eat around 500 poinsettias to experience sickness, so you should not worry too much if they accidentally chew on a leaf or two. The unpleasant taste of poinsettia leaves is also a deterrent for children to take more than a bite off the plant. Parents should be more concerned about Christmas ornaments that resemble food, particularly small ones that can pose as choking hazards. You should also not leave glasses with unfinished alcohol within the reach of children.
How to Take Care of Poinsettias
What happened to the potted poinsettia that you received last year? It is fairly easy to take care of the plant. If there is a foil wrap, you should remove it and let the water drain from the plant. You can place the poinsettia on a plate or saucer before moving it into a permanent container. Do not let standing water for too long while the plant is in a temporary pot. Find a well-lit spot in the house where it is also cool most of the time. The leaves will likely last longer if you keep them there. However, leaves with lighter colors are usually the longest-lasting variants. If you are thinking about cutting poinsettias, you should sear the ends with a candle to prevent droopy flowers. This happens when the sap leaks after cutting the leaves. Another drawback of cutting leaves is a more frequent need to check the water level in the container as poinsettias become thirsty. If you live in the tropical south, the plant can be a good addition to your garden. Those who wish to keep the plant for as long as possible after Christmas should keep watering it when the surface is dry, which is recommended during the months of January to March.