The Christmas star, also known as poinsettia, is a shrub native to Mexico, where it grows abundantly in the wild, to reach conspicuous size, around 2-3 meters high.
In our houses it is kept of a size more easily manageable in apartment, and specimens of some years usually do not exceed one meter, it is an evergreen plant or deciduous leaf, produces a large dark green foliage and tiny flowers, called ciazi: in fact, the real flower of the Christmas stars is made up of small round buttons, usually green or yellowish, but are grouped in inflorescences, consisting of 4-8 flowers, subtended by large bracts of bright red color.
In the last years, the hybridizers have been engaged in producing poinsettias with pink, yellowish, white bracts, or even curled or twice as many as the original plants. Flowering, with consequent production of coloured bracts, takes place in winter; during the rest of the year, usually, the species of Euphorbia pulcherrima are roundish bushes, formed by the thin fleshy stems and by the green foliage.
The Euphorbia pulcherrima plants purchased during the Christmas period are usually cuttings rooted for a short period of time and grown in greenhouses; for this reason they are to be kept in an apartment, at a temperature between 12 and 25°C. Watering should be done regularly, always waiting for the soil to dry up slightly before watering; let’s fertilize every 15-20 days with flowering plant fertilizer, avoiding excesses.
In reality this type of plant can bear even lower temperatures, and can be grown on the terrace or in a stairwell, but only if these temperatures are reached gradually, so as soon as you buy our Christmas stars should be grown by force in apartment, the following year can be left on the terrace, or in a place protected from frost, but not necessarily indoors.
They prefer quite luminous positions, but they do not love the direct sun and they do not even love the sudden changes of temperature, or the air currents, which cause, spent, the total loss of the foliage. In spring, repot the plants in slightly bigger containers, utilizing a good soft and very well drained soil.
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To make them flourish again
In the wild the Euphorbia pulcherrima plants bloom in winter, that is during the period of the year when the hours of light in a day are few; to obtain every year the coloured bracts, besides fertilizing and watering the plant correctly, during the winter we should keep it in a place where it receives the light only for 6-8 hours a day, avoiding also to expose it to the artificial light.
With the passing of the seasons, the plants of poinsettia, cultivated in pot, tend to produce a lot of foliage in the upper part of the branches, and to “empty” downwards, originating little thick and poorly decorative shrubs; in order to keep always a plant well thick and thick, it is advisable, in spring, to intervene, shortening all the branches, by about one third, or even more; in this way, we shall favour the development of many new shoots, and therefore of a compact plant, rich of foliage.
Christmas star – Euphorbia pulcherrima: Curiosities
Remember that when the branches of the Christmas stars are pruned, like those of all euphorbiaceae, they emit a sticky latex, which can be very irritating in contact with the skin or eyes; this latex is poisonous for insects and small animals: then, after pruning, we clean the stems using a microfiber cloth well soaked in lukewarm water, so as to stop the leakage of latex.
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