Squak Talk Blog

Poinsettias, Questions and Answers

Q:  Where are your poinsettias grown?

A:  Our greenhouses here at Squak Mt!  We are one only a few greenhouses in Washington state that grows these colorful, festive plants.  Our first crop of poinsettias was grown here in 1978, and we are now the only grower of poinsettias in King County!


Q:  Wow!… but where did poinsettias originate from?

A:  Poinsettias are native to Mexico.  They were valued by the Aztecs for their beauty, to make dye and for medicinal purposes.  Poinsettias are a perennial shrub in warmer climates, and can grow more than 10’ tall.  Perhaps you have seen some in landscapes on a trip to Hawaii or southern California.


Q:  How did they become a traditional Christmas plant?

A:  Franciscan monks who settled in Mexico began incorporating the beautiful blooms into Christmas ceremonies in the 17th century.  In 1828, the American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, sent some poinsettia cuttings home to South Carolina.  In the early 1900’s the Ecke family grew them outdoors at their farm in California, and their family was instrumental in creating (hybridizing) the modern poinsettia.  Over the decades methods and varieties have been fine tuned to allow us to grow them in greenhouses as a potted plant.  Their winter bloom time and festive red color makes them a perfect accent for holiday decorating.


Q:  I can’t grow poinsettias – aren’t they hard to grow?

A:  We plant them in our greenhouses in early July, and yes they are a lot of work to grow… However when you take them home mature, in November or December, they are quite easy to take care of.  Keep them indoors in areas that receive natural light.  Do not place them near a fireplace or heat vent.  When the top of soil is dry to your touch, water the roots thoroughly.  We recommend removing the decorative pot cover before watering the soil thoroughly in a sink.  After the water has drained through you can replace the pot cover and enjoy it in your home.  In most homes you will need to water every 4 to 7 days.


Q:  I have pets and aren’t poinsettias toxic?

A:  NO!  Poinsettias are not toxic.  No one is sure where this myth originated.   Studies at Ohio State University, as early as 1971, have shown that poinsettias are non-toxic for people and pets.  If a pet eats sufficient foliage (it is not a pleasant flavor) they may experience an upset stomach but not a medical crisis.  If a branch is broken and the sap remains in contact with skin, the laytex sap inside the branches can cause skin irritation for folks with laytex allergies.


Q:  That’s a relief!  My neighbor says she has kept her poinsettia from last Christmas but it is not blooming again.  How come?

A:  We often get happy customers telling us in May that their poinsettia still looks great!  Those colorful leaves are actually not blooms, but special leaves called “bracts”.  The actual yellow bloom forms in the center of the bract as the plant matures.  Poinsettias are quite sensitive to light.  They need about twelve hours of darkness each night during mid September and early October in order to initiate the change in the plants leaves to form colorful bracts for the Christmas season.  Each time your neighbor turns on their lights in the evening they are interrupting this cycle of darkness!  Without twelve or more hours of darkness each night, followed by good light each day, you cannot have colorful bracts. In fact greenhouses in the Southern United States must use black out curtains to initiate the color change on their crops in time for the Christmas season.


Q:  Well I would be delighted if I could just enjoy poinsettias in my home for a few months!  When can I come select mine?

A:  Our crop of more than 15,000 healthy, vibrant poinsettias is ready for you now.  You will find that the very best selection of plants is available through early December.  Come select your favorite sizes and colors from our state of the art growing benches, and place beautiful, welcoming festive color in your home throughout the holiday season.


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