Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are native to southern Mexico. They have erect, succulent stems and large, scarlet floral leaves or bracts, which look like flamboyant flowers. In the centre of the bracts are the true flowers, an insignificant yellowish cluster. The vibrantly coloured bracts are produced in winter, when many gardens are looking cheerless and bare. Poinsettias grow well in the warmer zones of Australia. In cooler areas plant in a warm, protected position, or grow them indoors.
As well as the familiar rounded shrub which grows to about 4m (12′) tall, there are named varieties available with white, cream, pink, crimson or multicoloured floral bracts. In our segment a whole row of dwarf poinsettias was shown, with alternating red (‘Freedom’) and pink (‘Pink Peppermint’) flowering plants. These varieties will grow from 2-3m (6-10′), but with regular pruning they can be kept around 1-2m (3-6′) high. They have a dense, bushy habit, unlike the species which tends to become too leggy.
Poinsettias grow best in full sun through to about half shade. They like rich, well-drained soil and need protection from frost and strong winds. They can be pruned after flowering in spring to encourage a more compact shrub.
Dwarf poinsettias are available at nurseries. The best time to buy is around Christmas when they are sold in flower. Expect to pay $15-$20 for a 200mm (8″) pot.