Unwrap your Poinsettia Right Away
If there is normally no problem leaving plants purchased for Christmas in their wrapping for 4 or 5 days, that is not the case with the popular Christmas plant known as the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), often offered as a hostess gift during the holiday season. This plant produces ethylene, a toxic gas, and begins to poison itself in as little as 16 hours if there is no or little air circulation. Soon the bracts fall off and the plant, although it is not necessarily dead yet, won’t be very presentable. If you plan to offer a poinsettia as a gift, but not for a few days, unwrap it immediately when you get home and rewrap it just before you leave.
Having A Blue Christmas?
Garden centers, box stores and supermarkets are all decked out for the Holidays with beautiful poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in shades of red, pink, white, cream… and more recently, blue, purple or orange, with sparkles to boot. The first series of colors is natural: through selection and hybridization, it has been possible to take the normally red-bracted poinsettia and cause it to have bracts in various shades of pink and white, sometimes even bicolors. The intense blues, purples, and oranges are fake, resulting from a special dye being sprayed onto the bracts. (The sparkles are fake too, but that, most people have figured out.)
If you’re like me, you keep your poinsettias from year to year. Mine bloom faithfully every year starting in late November (I just put them in a room with no artificial light starting in September, as they need short days in order to bloom, and voilà! They bloom for the Holidays). But if you keep the dyed ones, you’ll find that most will have white bracts from the second year on (dyes show up better on a white poinsettia than a red or pink one).
Poinsettias aren’t the only plants being artificially colored. There are now fluorescent blue and purple orchids (these are actually injected with dyes!), succulents with leaves spray-painted pink and purple and even anthuriums with flowers lacquered in various unlikely colors.
All these shades will eventually wear off as new growth takes over and the plant will go back to its original color. So before you get excited about a plant you’ve found in some exotic new color, check with the merchant. Hopefully he’ll be able to tell you if it’s a fake or the real thing.