Beauty is all around us at Christmastime. We decorate with lights, large pine trees, tinsel, and of course, the beautiful poinsettia. These plants not only bring beauty to our homes, but also a little bit of history. In this blog, we will tell you how to pick the perfect poinsettia for you holiday décor and share the history and legend behind this lovely flower.
The blooms of the poinsettia are not the red and green parts, but a tiny yellow flower located in the center of all the color. The brightly colored parts are called bracts. They are a type of modified leaf which change color based upon day length. Poinsettias can be found in various colors. They naturally grow from white to pink to red with solid or speckled leaves. However, sellers now dye or paint them many other colors and may even add sparkles. There can be a poinsettia to match any color scheme.
What To Look For
It’s easy to pick out the perfect poinsettia. Begin by purchasing fresh, healthy looking plants that have been cared for properly. Look for plants whose plastic sleeves are ‘down’, and the bracts are visible. Much like ripening fruit, the plant produces ethylene gas as it ages. If the plastic sleeve covers the bracts, the gas can collect in the sleeves and cause the plant to prematurely lose their bracts.
Once the poinsettia is purchased it is important to ensure it stays warm. When the temperature is colder, make sure it is covered with the sleeves or a plastic bag, when transporting the plant from the store to the car.
It is simple to care for poinsettias if you follow these guidelines. Poinsettias need to be kept out of the way of extreme weather conditions; hot and cold. Keep them away from cold drafts and heat ducts, radiators, and doors entering the house from outside or the garage. Poinsettias need sunlight, but do not place where the sun will beat on the plant. Ideal temperatures are between 60° and 68°F.
There is a specific way to water your poinsettia. It is best to wait until the surface of the potting soil begins to dry slightly. Apply water until it overflows out of the bottom of the pot, wait 30 minutes, and then dump out additional water that remains in the bottom of the tray.
To Eat or Not To Eat
It has been said that poinsettias are poisonous. Is this rumor true? A child would have to eat more than 500 leaves in order to experience any ill effects. Consequently, eating 500 of anything would make anyone sick to their stomach. Just to be safe, encourage children and pets to stay away from the plants.
History and Legend
National Poinsettia Day is on December 12th to celebrate Joel Poinsett. Joel was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico with a love of botany. He introduced the plant to the United States after discovering them in Mexico. The botanical name is “euphorbia pulcherrima”, translating to “very beautiful.”
The poinsettia is also known as Christmas Star or Christmas Flower. It is said that it is related to Christmas because of a Mexican legend. Pepita, a poor Mexican girl wanted to offer a gift to the Christ Child but could not afford an extravagant gift to place on the church alter. Her cousin assured her that whatever she presented would be acceptable in the eyes of Jesus if it was given in love. So, she gathered common weeds from the side of the road and made them into a small bouquet. As she laid the humble gift on the alter, the weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red and green. This was truly a Christmas miracle.