Winter Blahs


Winter Blahs Essay, Research Paper

Nature s Antidote to the Winter Blahs

Want to color up those dull December days? Look no further than poinsettias, nature s antidote to those winter blahs. Elegant and unusual, with bracts fanning over emerald foliage, Euphorbia Pulcherrima as it is known scientifically, not only displays seasonal drama but is one the most decorative plants year round. They adorn tables, fireplaces, hallways and yuletide arrangements and many other holiday displays.

Harvested by the Aztecs for their dye, poinsettias were originally brought to the United States by the Mexican Ambassador Joel Poinsett in the 1820s, which they are named after. In many tropical countries like Mexico and my native country of Puerto Rico, they grow like bushes.

Today, more than 80 million poinsettias are sold in our country during winter months. Breeders have played around with their bract colors and can now be found in several colors that include creams, pinks, ambers as well as the traditional red. Intriguing variations continue to hit the market each year, from the paintbrush-splotched varieties to curly bracts and ruffled leaves this plant continues to be a crowd pleaser.

Despite their reputation for being poisonous, studies indicate the milky sap may irritate eyes if accidentally touched, but they are not poisonous. So don t worry about having these plants around small children or pets, they are not dangerous. So you see, there is no reason not to try these decorative, scarlet beauties. I suggest you buy a few in the coming season and try to keep them until the following Christmas like I do.

Poinsettias can be propagated at home, but I advise to buy several of them to start. When buying them check for any diseases or insects like whiteflies on the underside of the leaves. Check for well watered plants whose leaves and bracts are vibrant and erect.

Upon bringing them home in late November or December, make sure to place in a sunny location. If you can read in the room, the light is perfect.

Water plants thoroughly when soil surface is dry; never allow plants to sit in water. Another hint, they are of tropical origin and prefer warm water with a weak solution of a well-balanced liquid fertilizer every time you water. They thrive in temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees and should not be exposed to drafts. Last year I bought two tall, beautiful specimens and placed them the door. The draft created when the door opened and closed killed them.

As I previously mentioned, be alert for any signs of whitefly. Whiteflies are 1/16th inch insect that collects in colonies on the underside of leaves. They resemble tiny white moth like insects and if you disturb the foliage and you see them spray the tops and undersides of leaves and bracts with an environmentally, friendly insecticidal soap solution such as Safer. This solution will control the whiteflies and help you keep the plants longer.

And so after the holidays have come and gone and all decorations come down, make sure to keep the poinsettias. They will once again adorn the hallways and tables next year. They will lose their red color, but don t despair, if properly maintained their color will return the following season. They turn green and can be maintained as houseplants and when it gets warm enough, you can take them outdoors. In April take off half the length of the stems. You should do this again in May and July but not as severely.

Next mid-September keep them in the dark for fourteen consecutive hours a day: At night, stash the plant in the closet allowing no natural or artificial light to get in or you may also cover them with a cardboard box. After eight to ten weeks the bracts should be colored. During the day give the poinsettia six to eight hours of bright light.

This tricky process will trigger coloring and continue to keep your plants looking wonderful throughout the seasons. So come next December, when those dull days of winter set in, the beautiful red blaze of these plants will remind you that Christmas is just around the corner.

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