Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pleasing Poinsettia

It's that time of year again...when a trip to any grocery store, discount store or garden center yields giant displays of that ubiquitous holiday plant-the Poinsettia. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are here to stay. Fortunately, great strides have been made in the cultivation of the Poinsettia, and we no longer have to 'settle' for just red. Instead, we now have mottled, bi-color, salmon, peach, white, ivory and pink to choose from. (Sometimes they are even blue, or sprayed with glitter!).

By decree of Congress, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day, marking the death of Joel Robert Poinsett, who was US Ambassador to Mexico. He took cuttings of the plant and shipped them to his greenhouse in Greenville, South Carolina, propagating them and distributing throughout the country.

The name Poinsettia means "Very Beautiful", and when grown properly, they certainly are! Native to Southern Mexico and Central America, they often grow to 10 feet high. In Mexico, they are known as "Flores de la Noche Buena", or "Flower of the Holy Night". Though the bracts do make a lovely flower, they don't work well as a cut flower because of the milky sap.

Remember that Poinsettia is poisonous-so it's important to find a home for it out of the prying hands of children or curious Rover. If your specimen arrived wrapped in foil, be sure to either remove the foil entirely, or punch holes in the bottom, to assure drainage. Nothing will assure a quick death like sitting in water! Otherwise, give your plant full sun during the day, but total darkness at night. The leaves shouldn't come into contact with cold windowpanes, and keep your plant away from hot or cold drafts.

It may sound as though the Poinsettia is a high-maintenance plant, but it's really not.
Though we usually treat Poinsettia as a toss-it-after-the-holidays plant, given the right circumstances, you could have bloom well into March or longer. (My giant salmon-colored beauty lasted until October of this year!)

Check out this Poinsettia bush found in Hawaii!

Remember to call Bloomers early and order your holiday floral gifts, such as Poinsettias!

1 comment:

TheHolyEnchilada said...

The native name of the Poinsettia (Cuitlaxochitl, from the original Nahuatl) actually means "Flowers with leather-like leaves that die" or simply, flowers that die.

According to the Nahuatl legend, the native people of Central Mexico fought to defend their land. Their blood spilled in battle made the "flowers", red.

A more romantic legend of colonial Mexico narrates the story of a little girl that wanted to bring flowers to church on Christmas eve. She was very poor, so she could only offer baby Jesus a handful of weeds. A miracle happened and the humble gift turned into beautiful weed-like red flowers. Since then those flowers are simply called "Nochebuena", that translates as "The Good Night" - the name given to Christmas Eve.

Thanks for your lovely blog!