The Christmas Star Can Live Long. Here’s How to Take Care of it
The Christmas star in our country is used as a decoration and Christmas gift. Many people don’t know that if carefully cared for it can last and flourish again for years. Read our advice on how to grow this plant.
The botanical name of this plant is EUPHORBIA PULCHERRIMA, commonly known as a Christmas star. It is a plant native to Mexico and is part of the Euphorbiaceae family.
In nature it can reach up to 3 meters in height, but in our country is grown in pots, where it can hardly reach a meter.
The name “star” comes from the upper leaves that are considered petals, but are actually bracts, ie leaves that undergo a transformation of color. The flowers of this plant are called Ciazi, are small and are found in the middle of the bracts, usually yellow or green. It blooms during the winter season.
The botanical species are red, but over the years have taken over the market many hybrid plants with pink, fuchsia, yellow and white bracts.
The Christmas star is a plant symbol of the Christmas period, in fact it often happens to find it in nurseries to decorate our homes, or that it is given to us in the period behind the Christmas holidays.
How To Cultivate
The Christmas star is a rather delicate plant, it can not survive long if they are not taken some care and attention.
If we buy, or we are given this type of plant during the Christmas period, we should put it in a bright place in the house, away from direct sunlight. It seems to love cool night temperatures and a temperate climate during the day, but not too hot. The best place therefore where to place the Christmas star during the winter is at home, away from heat sources, direct light and windows to avoid temperature changes that can be fatal for the survival of the plant. The plant does not survive at temperatures below 12-15°.
It must be watered every time that the soil is dry. Same thing during the summer period, taking into account that the soil can dry faster. For your safety, we recommend touching the soil with your fingers. It is important to avoid constantly soaking the soil, but at the same time keep the plant dry for too long.
We have to know that if the environment of our house is very dry and we love indoor plants, a cold humidifier will be the case.
Now you are wondering – after the winter period and the flowering, how can I keep this plant alive?
After the flowering period and therefore also the winter, our Christmas star starts to lose its colored leaves. We think the plant is dying, but it is not.
With the arrival of spring, the plant will begin to lose its bracts. Once it has no leaves, we could top all the branches at 10 cm from the ground. Like all Euphorbias, the Christmas star contains an abundant amount of white latex in the tissues that prevents rapid healing from cuts. For this reason we recommend using a sharp pruning knife, making a clean cut and covering the cut stems with ash, so as to stop the release of latex.
As soon as the temperatures are warmer, we can move the Christmas star outside to our balcony. It prefers a mostly shady exposure.
In summer we may notice that the plant will show some sign of regrowth. It’s time to give it more nutrients using fertilizer, always respecting the doses on the packaging. Constantly water every time we notice the soil dry, avoiding water stagnation. During the spring and near the end of summer we could try to propagate the Christmas star for cuttings.
We will go into this in more detail in the last paragraph. Now let’s see how to change the color of the leaves of our old plant again, before Christmas.
Prepare The Bracts Before Christmas
In the autumn, so with temperatures starting to drop, the Christmas stars that we managed to cure, will have to return home. Obviously the period varies depending on the area, north or south of Italy. We should ensure the plant a temperature ranging between 18-23 ° C.
At this point in mid-October, we should provide the Christmas star with 12 hours of darkness, also considering the artificial light. Yes, this plant needs much less light and more darkness to bloom and color the bracts red.
So in this period we should cover the plant with a dark cloth or move it in the dark from 16/17 in the afternoon, to 8 the next morning. Once the result is obtained, we could remove the cloth definitively or bring the plant back to the ideal place chosen, suspending the fertilization. In this way the Christmas star will be ready to decorate the house and give it the Christmas flavor.
How To Propagate The Christmas Star
The Christmas star is not a fertile plant. it hardly produces seeds, and if it produces them, the seedlings that will be born, are unlikely to be the same as the mother plant, being mostly hybrid plants.
So the best way to propagate this plant is by cuttings: precisely by apical cuttings. This plant tends to root quite easily and quickly.
This means that we will take the tops of the branches, i.e. the upper branches, without flowers, with a well sharpened knife so as not to remove the plant. Remove the lower leaves, close to the cut, and put the branch in half a glass of lukewarm water. Lukewarm water is initially important to stop latex from escaping. Usually after about fifteen days, new roots will appear at the end of the stem. Do not bury when the roots are still too fragile and short, better to wait a few more days leaving it to soak in the glass.