Plant lovers who can’t wait for the poinsettia until December can celebrate in July.
Though not as bubbly as its winter cousin, the poinsettia with painted leaves is a mid-year gift, Michele Warmund, gardener with the University of Missouri Extension, said in a press release.
In Missouri, especially in the southern part of the state, the painted poinsettia, also known as fire-on-the-mountain, grows wild. It reaches a height of 2-3 feet at maturity. Lower leaves are often unlobed while the upper leaves are fiddle-shaped.
In the vicinity of the shoot tips there are modified leaves, which are known as bracts and turn red to red-orange from July to September. The bracts surround the real flowers known as cyathia.
The poinsettia with painted leaves adapts to different types of soil and grows in full sun to partial shade, Warmund said. Cyathia attract bees, butterflies, and moths. Pests rarely bother these plants, but prolonged wetness can leave them prone to fungal infections.
Nurseries specializing in wild plants and some local plant communities have painted poinsettia seeds. The plants can also be propagated by herbaceous stem cuttings or transplanted from unrestricted locations. Avoid severing the taproot while digging, she said.
While beautiful poinsettias with painted leaves can get invasive. The plants are also allelopathic, releasing a compound into the soil that can stunt the growth of other plants. “It’s best to grow poinsettias with painted leaves in a container or in a limited area,” she says.
In autumn, a single seed develops in a three-lobed capsule. As they ripen, the capsules burst open, hurling the seeds into the air and onto the ground.
Like the poinsettia, the painted leaf Christmas star also contains latex, a milky white substance. Latex is irritating when it comes into contact with the eyes or mouth and can cause slight discomfort when consumed. For this reason, the poinsettia with painted leaves is considered a rabbit and deer resistant plant.
Other plants related to the poinsettia with painted leaves are the blooming milkweed and the snow on the mountain. Blooming milkweed, a perennial, bears numerous small, white, five-petalled flowers from April to October. While viewed as a weed in some settings, the flowering milkweed is useful for attracting quail to feed on the seeds and use the plant as cover when raising the offspring. An ornamental plant, Snow-on-the-mountain has showy green foliage with white leaf margins and small flowers.