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Preserving your poinsettias
The poinsettia is a fussy plant that does not like Central Oregon’s outside temperature fluctuations
December 17, 2012
They are a bright spot in the chilly season of winter, and a welcome sight during the Christmas holidays.
Poinsettias grow in a wide variety of colors — ranging from pastels and whites to vibrant reds. As beautiful as they are, these flowers are fussy. Because they are tropical, they are a challenge to keep healthy through a Central Oregon winter season.
The poinsettia plant Euphorbia pulcherrima, was first brought to the United States in 1825 by the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett — thus, the name Poinsettia.
When asked whether a poinsettia can survive a Central Oregon winter outside — or even fall or spring — a clerk from the house plant section at Lowe’s in Bend pointedly said that these plants are not intended to endure the Central Oregon temperatures. These plants like temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees, and no lower than 60 degrees. Even a cold summer night could do a lot of harm to these fragile plants.
Local master gardener Jason Carr concurred that poinsettias are not an adaptable plant to Central Oregon’s outside temperatures and fluctuations.
“Because they are a tropical plant, they wouldn’t survive in freezing weather,” said Carr.
He added that poinsettias, like many plants that are sold as annuals in the Central Oregon region, grow as perennials in other climates. He said that some tropical plants that thrive year-round elsewhere don’t do well here.
He added that the poinsettia could possibly be planted in a protected area like a greenhouse where it stayed warm, but the plant just can’t be subjected to freezing temperatures.
“Most tropical plants really don’t do very well when the temperature drops below 50 degrees,” noted Carr. “That is why even vegetables like eggplant, pepper, and even tomatoes do better in the Willamette Valley — even though we have warmer days, they have warmer nights.”
He added that the variation in temperature is also stressful to plants, which is typical of Central Oregon weather.
The flower of a poinsettia is actually the yellow center, and the colored part of the poinsettia is the leaf. The plant starts losing its leaves in February, a process called transitioning. Carr said that putting the plant in a darker room temporarily will help bring back the color in the leaves again.
“After so much time, the red will fade and they will be green again,” he said.
Whether you receive a poinsettia as a gift or you are nurturing one because you enjoy the simple beauty of the plant, keep in mind that they need constant, warm temperatures, plenty of light and damp soil.
Poinsettias may be fussy, but they can be enjoyed all year with enough patience and diligence.