Beautiful poinsettias turn up at every grocery, garden center and hardware store in early December.
There are so many beautiful and unusual varieties from which to choose. And as much as I love the flowers as a part of my December decorations, I don’t care for the foil wrapped pots in which they are sold.
In fact, leaving the plastic nursery pots in the plastic or foil sleeves they are sold in can be the kiss of death for the plant, since the soil can’t drain after watering.
Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, are native to Mexico and Central America. Like all Euphorbias, poinsettias won’t abide water logged soil. They like evenly moist soil, but their roots must be able to breathe.
Transplanting the poinsettia from its plastic nursery pot into something more attractive is an easy solution.
I use deep baskets, lined with plastic, as often as I use porcelain pots such as this one. Since there is no drainage from these containers either, I fill the bottom inch of the container with pea gravel and water only when the soil’s surface begins to feel slightly dry.
This container, intended as a serving bowl, sold at a discount housewares shop for under $10. It is only about 2″ deeper than the original nursery pot. After adding a layer of pea gravel in the bottom, I added a thin layer of new potting soil to both bottom and sides, checking the depth with the still potted poinsettia.
These Christmas poinsettias are rarely root bound when you buy them, so it’s easy to tease off some of the soil from the bottom and sides if you must, to make the plant fit well in your container.
Two small pots of ivy cuttings, purchased at the hardware store, dress up the awkward stems of the poinsettia. You can see that the variegated ivy echoes the colors of the white poinsettia. A second pot of dark green ivy, with more delicate foliage, provides contrast.
The individual ivy cuttings can be easily teased apart into several small clumps. Space these clumps evenly around the edges of the plant, backfilling with fresh potting soil as you go.
I’ve made many of these arrangements over the years in baskets large enough to also add an Amaryllis bulb or Cyclamen. All of these are easy to find and affordable winter bloomers, and all enjoy the same cool temperatures and bright light that the poinsettia prefers.
You can also fit three or four poinsettias into a very large container to make an impressive display for a large room.
Although many people buy poinsettias as disposable plants, expecting to pitch them in January, it is easy to keep them growing through the winter and set them outside in early summer. Poinsettias will grow into small shrubs, given the opportunity, and can bloom again the following year. This is why I add Osmocote fertilizer to the soil’s surface as I work.
Finally, give your arrangement a finished appearance by dressing the soil. I’ve used preserved reindeer moss, which can be found at most crafts stores in the floral department, and more white pea gravel. Use moss and stones to cover all visible soil.
You might also consider glass beads, sea shells, aquarium gravel, or living moss harvested from your own garden. If you use living moss, remember to mist it every few days. It will need water more often than the poinsettia will.
This entire arrangement cost less than $30.00 to construct. You can bring the price down even lower by re-using an old container and by rooting your own ivy a few weeks before making the arrangement.
I’ve given these arrangements as Christmas gifts in past years, made them for a church sanctuary as part of their Christmas display, used them as a centerpiece in my dining room, and made them for the counter in my school’s main office.
Kept moist and in bright light, the arrangement will look good into January, at the least.
Poinsettias often begin dropping their leaves in late winter. If you can move the plant to a less visible spot until danger of frost is passed, then your poinsettia can live on in a bright spot out of doors for the summer. Prune the poinsettia to about half of its size in late January, and begin feeding it when you put it outside in the spring. You may be surprised at how beautifully it grows over the summer.
Enjoy dressing up your poinsettia this year. These plants are affordable, beautiful, and are easily cared for. Poinsettia arrangements make a welcome gift in most homes for the holidays.
Arrangement and photos by Woodland Gnome 2014