Native to Mexico, and known to the Aztecs, poinsettias once were a symbol of purity because of their vibrant colours. Nowadays, in many parts of the world, they are a symbol of Christmas and the holiday season. Bermuda is not exempt from this holiday tradition as each year Bermudians seek out this plant to use as decoration in their homes and as gifts for family and friends.
Poinsettias remain to this day one of the most popular plants, despite their short sale span of about six weeks and the common misconception that they are highly poisonous and dangerous for children or pets. Not only are poinsettias bright, colourful and perfect for decorating, they are also fairly easy to take care of and can withstand pretty hard conditions given that they were originally a desert plant.
Amaral Farms in Devonshire grows hundreds of poinsettias every year, ready to bloom and reveal their colours just in time for the holidays. Farm owner Carlos Amaral gave us a tour of the greenhouse where his poinsettias are getting ready to bloom, and gave us tips on how to take care of a poinsettia to make sure you can enjoy your plant past the holidays. The life span of this plant can be up to more than 10 years with proper care, so it is not necessary to buy a new one every year if you take care of your poinsettia and make sure it blooms on time next year.
SHELTER YOUR PLANT: Your best bet is to pick an area in your house or garden where the plant won’t be exposed to harsh winds, constant breeze or even a draft. Coming into December, it is recommended for the plant to be inside rather than outside. Although poinsettias are pretty resistant to harsh conditions, exposure to a constant breeze and cold air can easily damage them. Picking a somewhat sheltered area will ensure that your plant won’t be damaged.
DON’T OVERWATER: Poinsettias don’t need a lot of water and don’t like to be over-watered. Once a week should be sufficient. As a general rule of thumb, touch the soil before and after watering your poinsettia; if it feels damp, it is good enough.
MONITOR SUNLIGHT: As for sunlight, poinsettias require different doses of sun depending on whether they have bloomed yet or not. To get your poinsettia to bloom, make sure it is not getting prolonged or intense sun exposure. An extended combination of half shade, half sunlight will get poinsettias to bloom. Western sunlight exposure—where the plant gets shade in the morning and then sunlight around mid-day—is ideal. However, after the bloom, sunlight intensifies the colour, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your poinsettia in the shade as much.
DON’T EAT IT: Lastly, contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous and are safe around kids and pets. Although as with most plants you would have in your house, they are not meant for human consumption.
Being both vibrant and easy to take care of makes poinsettias the perfect addition to holiday decorating. In Bermuda, they will be available for purchase at Amaral Farms as early as Thanksgiving weekend. But don’t wait until Christmas week to get yours—you can enjoy it for the entire season if you want to!