All About Poinsettias
A Christmas classic, poinsettias make great living centrepieces, and the traditional red and green variety is a popular choice.
But this plant also comes in a range of other colours, including white, pink, purple, orange and yellow, which can also make lovely seasonal decorations.
A perennial shrub, poinsettias can grow up to about 4m when they are planted out in the garden.
What look like colourful petals are actually modified leaves, or bracts. The flowers are the tiny white to yellow blooms that are massed together in the centre of each leaf or bract cluster.
Originating from Mexico, the most common poinsettia is the single red variety, Euphorbia pulcherrima, but some cultivars have double red bracts.
Cuttings from summer and winter prunings can be used to propagate new plants to grow indoors. Take 300mm stem cuttings, dip the ends in water and insert into potting mix. Keep moist for a few weeks until they take root.
Poinsettias have to be forced into putting on a display of colour out of season in the Southern Hemisphere.
To get the bracts to change colour by Christmas, they are kept in the dark for at least 14 hours a day from mid spring, usually between 5pm and 8am.
Enjoy them as house plants all year round, but give them a sunny north-facing position or bright filtered light in temperatures of about 21°C.
TIP Stand the stems of cut flowers in hot water to thicken the sticky sap.
Pick a shade
Poinsettias come in a variety of different colours in addition to the traditional red and green. Choose a cultivar that suits your decorating scheme.