Poinsettia, A Vibrant Holiday Plant

Poinsettias are as symbolic of Christmas as pumpkins are of Halloween.

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family Euphorbiaceae. The species is indigenous to Mexico and was first brought to the United States in the 1820s. Also known as the Christmas Flower, it is particularly well known for its red and green foliage. The poinsettia is a tropical species of Euphorbia. In frost-free regions it is grown as a garden shrub, attaining a height of 12 feet high and 8 feet wide. However, in our colder climate, the poinsettia needs to be maintained as a spectacular potted plant.

Poinsettias, a vibrant holiday plant, are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, and offices. They are as much a part of the holiday season as evergreen trees. These plants are available in large numbers from hardware, drug, and grocery stores across the United States. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day to honor Joel R Poinsett and Paul Ecke Jr. who were both instrumental in developing the poinsettia industry. Today, this plant is the world’s most economically important potted plant with over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia.

poinsettia
With proper light and temperature, poinsettias accumulate the anthocyanin pigments that give them their color.

A Flower without petals

What most people mistake as flower petals are in fact specialized leaves called bracts.
The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch and are called cyathia. Flowers of this type are unique and are typical of the Spurge family.

poinsettia flower parts

What Makes Poinsettias Bracts Turn Red?

It is actually the plant’s specialized leaves called bracts that provide its color through a process called photoperiodism. What this really means its that, poinsettias develop vegetative growth when the photoperiod is long and flowers when the photoperiod is shorter. So a Poinsettia is what is called a short day photoperiod plant, which means that it naturally flowers when the nights become longer than the days.

In order for a poinsettia to change color, it needs 11 hours and 40 minutes, let’s just say twelve hours of darkness for at least five consecutive days. That tells the plant cells in the bracts to develop their vibrant red pigment. In commercial production, many growers use a black cloth to adjust light levels to either produce earlier crops or make the entire crop more uniform. After the color change process has taken place, poinsettias need at least six hours of indirect sunlight per day to maintain their brightest color.

Creating New Varieties of Poinsettia

Active breeding of poinsettia began in the 1950s to develop cultivars that would retain their leaves and bracts for a longer time. These breeding programs focused on stronger stems, leaf retention as well as early blooming and flower color variation. The height of this plant is also critical to sales. With the use of chemical growth retardants, the size of poinsettias can be controlled to produce 9 to 36-inch plants.

Many Plant breeders continue to tinker with poinsettias and modern technology has spawned some interesting mutations, with the use of gamma and X-ray radiation. Their efforts have translated into more color selections and better quality plants for consumers. Bract colors range from red to white, pink to burgundy, there is even an orange variety.

WinterRosePoinsettia
There are over one hundred different varieties of poinsettia.  Here is a popular double ruffle winter rose that has been available for about ten years now.

 

Quick Poinsettia Facts

  • Ideal temperatures are 65 to 75° F
  • Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous
  • If you want to care for them hydroponically, an ebb-and-flow system works best
  • When first introduced to the U.S. most botanists dismissed it as a weed
  • Studies estimate that 80% of poinsettia sales are made by women

Annual, Biennial, or Perennial Plants. What is the difference?

daisy flowers in a book

Horticulture and botany, like any science, has its own terminology. Whether you’re an inexperienced newbie trying to unravel gardening instructions or a professional, here are some horticultural terms decoded.  Let’s begin with annual, biennial and perennial plants- what’s the difference? At The Plant King Blog, we always have new posts so check regularly for additional gardening terms, that you’ve always wanted to learn.

Annuals: Plants that complete their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed again within a single growing season. Marigolds, zinnias, and impatiens are typical examples of annual flowering plants that gardeners plant every year to add vibrant color to their gardens. These plants produce beautiful flowers that bloom profusely during the entire season.  All roots, stems, and leaves of annuals die back each season and it is only the dormant seed that begins the next generation.  If gardeners are planting annuals there are two options for next season: either buy a new flat of annuals each springtime or direct sowing of seeds in order to see those colorful creations again.

Biennials: Plants that require two years to complete their life cycle. The first year biennial will produce leafy growth but second-year plants produce flowers. Typical examples of biennials include Black-eyed Susan, California poppy,
Canterbury Bells, Hollyhock and Sweet William. Non-flowering in their first year can be frustrating to gardeners growing ornamental flowers. However, you can get around their two-year cycle by starting seeds in the summer instead of the spring.

There are delicious vegetables that are biennials too.  Some examples of these biennials include onions, cabbage, carrots and herbs such as parsley.  Typically biennial vegetables are usually eaten in about a few weeks after planting. We do not eat second-year plants because they develop wood parts, but if you continue to allow them to grow they will develop flowers and seeds. 

Perennials: Perennials are flowers or plants that can live for more than two growing seasons.  Perennials form a wide assortment of plant groups from ferns to the highly diverse flowering plants like orchids, grasses, and herbs such as hops and lavender. The term is used extensively to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are considered perennials.  Woody perennials consist of trees such as pine, maple and apple trees as well as shrubs. Herbaceous personals die back at season’s end but regrow the following year. Plants of this type include daffodils, alfalfa, red clover, and lemon balm.

 

 

 

 

10 EASIEST FLOWERS FOR BEGINNERS

Caring for flowers should be easy, fun and enjoyable.  Often beginner gardeners lose interest because some plants are more difficult to care for than others and maybe their plants failed to flower.  Why not focus on plants that are easy to grow? Your chances of success will go up tremendously. As your experience and your passion for gardening continue to grow so will the different varieties that will thrive under your care.

In this post, we add to our growing list with the 10 easiest flowers for beginners.

Sunflowers

sunflowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Yellows, Red hues, Orange hues, browns, and mixed

Plant Height: 3-16 feet

  • Blooms during summer
  • Drought and heat tolerant
  • Attracts birds, bees and butterflies
  • Thrive in full sun
  • Tolerates most soil types

Zinnias

zinnias

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Multicolor, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 20-24 inches

  • Blooms during summer
  • The shape of bloom differs by variety
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Prefers loamy, well-drained soil
  • Sensitive to frost
  • Has moderate water requirements
  • Grows best in full sun

Marigolds

marigolds

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Multicolor, Orange, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 6-36 inches

  • Blooms through spring, summer, and fall
  • Helps repel mosquitoes and other insects
  • Prefers well-drained loamy soil
  • Water well, but allow the soil to dry between waterings
  • Best grown in full sun

Morning Glories

morning glories

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Blue, Pink, Purple, Red, White

Plant Height: 6 to 15 feet

  • Blooms from summer through fall
  • Support climbers with structures like trellises or arches
  • Attracts birds, bees and butterflies
  • Requires fertile, loamy soil
  • Water weekly during dry periods
  • require full sun

Pansies

pansies

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annuals (can be perennial/biennial in Zones 6-10)

Flower Colors: Blue, Multicolor, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 6-9 inches

  • Attract butterflies
  • Like rich, well-drained soil
  • Needs regular watering
  • Will bloom in full sun or partial sun
  • Start pansy seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost

Coneflowers

coneflowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Flower Colors: Pink, Purple, Red, White, bicolor and more

Plant Height: Up to 6 feet

  • Will bloom for months
  • Make great cut flowers
  • Attracts bees and other pollinators
  • Sow seeds in spring or fall
  • Like rich, loamy well-drained soil
  • Plant in full sun

Lupines

lupines

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4-8 (often grown as an annual)

Flower Colors: Blue, white, yellow, pink, and purple

Plant Height: Up to 4 feet

  • Well suited for use in borders
  • Produces seeds that will self-sow
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Likes loamy, well-drained soil
  • Provide deep watering, and allow to dry in between
  • Plant in full sun

Geraniums

geranium flowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 10-11 (grown as an annual elsewhere)

Flower Colors: White, pink, red, lavender, purple, magenta, and rose

Plant Height: 3-24 inches

  • Low-maintenance color from spring until fall
  • Good for use in window boxes, hanging baskets or containers
  • Prefer sandy soil
  • Like to be watered regularly, but don’t over-water
  • Maximum blooming requires 4-6 hours of sunlight daily

Lavender

lavender flowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Flower Colors: Blue, Pink, Purple, White

Plant Height: 20-24 inches

  • Technically an herb, this hardy plant requires minimal care once established
  • Blooms throughout the summer
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Requires well-drained soil
  • Should be watered deeply, but infrequently
  • Plant in full sun

Daylilies

day lilies

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Flower Colors: Orange, Pink, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 12-48 inches

  • Flower continuously over a long period of time
  • Excellent for massing in large areas
  • Grow in rich, well-drained soil
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Provide deep watering in summer
  • Flower best in full sun to partial sun

Botanical Star of Bethlehem

StarOFBethelem

Ornithogalum umbellatum, or Star of Bethlehem, is a genus of perennials native to southern Europe and southern Africa. Growing from a bulb, the plant has slender basal leaves and a stalk bearing clusters of white star-shaped flowers, sometimes striped with green. The common name, Star-of-Bethlehem, is based on the flower’s star-shape and the star that appeared in the biblical account of the birth of Jesus.

This plant can quickly out-perform other species and take over when planted in beds with other ornamental flowers and will quickly become a nuisance in gardens and lawns.  Seed production is uncommon, mostly spreading by small, abundantly produced bulblets.  If interested in growing this plant it is safest to grow it in containers or areas where it can be kept confined.

The Star of Bethlehem flower is steeped in Christian symbolism, from its supposed Biblical reference. It is often used in floral bouquets and arrangements for ceremonies, such as christenings, baptisms, and marriages.

Ornithogalum was originally described by Linnaeus in 1753.

StarOfBethelemOrnithogalumUmbellatum1UME

Aristocrats of the woodland garden

hellebore flower

Commonly known as hellebores, the genus Helleborus consists of approximately 20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering dicots. These plants belong to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Common names include “winter rose”, “Christmas rose” and “Lenten rose”; however, hellebores are not closely related to the roses.    The leaves are toothed and leathery leaves. Many hellebore species are poisonous.

The distinctive flowers have five petal-like sepals surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries that are actually modified petals to hold nectar. The sepals do not fall as petals would, but remain on the plant, sometimes for many months.

Hellebores are widely grown in USDA Zone 5 through 8 gardens for decorative purposes. They are particularly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period.  The plants are surprisingly frost-resistant and are best grown in groups in wooded or shady borders.

christmas-rose-1025092_960_720

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