Question from Jeff:
I recently bought your So Cal Organic Gardening book and like it very much. Helped me right away on winter time sweet peas, and made me feel better about poinsettias. That is, I have been trying to grow poinsettias for the past decade, bought from nurseries, promised they can “grow” outside. Yet they always die or stagnate. I assumed these new flashy poinsettias are really only good for indoors, but always the nursery said “wrong.” Well, reading your book, I’m right. Question: can you recommend an online nursery that sells poinsettias for garden, e.g., the “Hollywood” variety you mention? I had outdoor poinsettias 30 years ago, and wish to bring them back. My garden is in Pacific Palisades (next to Santa Monica) about one mile from the water.
Answer from Pat:
I am delighted to hear that you read my brief history of the poinsettia in California and you are absolutely right the kind you purchase for Christmas do not grow well outdoors. The old varieties were a total joy here and it’s sad they are so seldom found. There are even better ones than ‘Hollywood’. I suggest you ask at botanical gardens for this plant. The best way to start one is from a cutting taken in spring. I got a cutting last year but it was given to me by a garden club in January and this was the wrong time of year to plant it, not warm enough. Besides, it was already too dried out when I got it. So it doesn’t appear to be growing. If I find a source of these outdoor varieties of poinsettias I will let you know. I have heard that there are several fine poinsettia trees growing outdoors in Encinitas and that the owners are happy to give cuttings in spring but I have not yet found them. If you ever see one of these plants growing in an old neighborhood, ask for a cutting in spring and go back and get it then. Any time between March and May is a good time to start them.
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