|A modern poinsettia inflorescence|
|a montage of poinsettia varieties|
|an "old style" poinsettia hedge with narow bracts|
I noticed that a lot of people looked at my blog about what happened to Hibiscus in Florida. The comments about the disappearance of old Hibiscus reminded me of the nearly total loss of Poinsettias. I've been asking University of Florida Extension agents for a long time about the mass disappearance of these gaudy yet iconic plants. The answers seem simpler than I would expect:
- insects and nematodes have decimated the plant
- the stalwart varieties that used to be grown as garden plants are highly susceptible to modern insects and nematodes.
- modern insects chew up the stalwart poinsettia varieties, and the insects are highly resistant to "conventional" insecticides.
- new poinsettia varieties don't grow as landscape plants as well as the old ones do.
If you wish to grow some of the old style of Poinsettias, use a very well drained organic soil, in a location with all-day sunlight. The organic soil will help retard nematodes ( omnipresent microscopic parasitic worms in the soil) which thrive in dry sandy soil. Plant new plants in May or June, and fertilize monthly with palm fertilizer. Tend to pest problems with organic pesticides like soap/ oil sprays to control whiteflies and mealybugs. Prune the plant heavily every 2 months to induce a lot of branching, then stop pruning by Labor Day. Reduce irrigation after Labor Day to the point where you water the plant only when it wilts. Poinsettias and Bougainvilleas can be tended to on the same schedule, and can grow side by side.
Give your Poinsettia plenty of room, some gentle neglect, attention to pests, and diligent pruning, and it will reward you with a brilliant show of color for months. Perhaps we can start a renaissance of Poinsettias, with a modern twist.