The History of the Poinsettia
Let us begin with a beautiful festive tale. According to legends, a poor child in Mexico who had no gift to bare the baby Jesus, gathered a handful of weeds and formed them into a simple bouquet to present to him on his birthday. By the time the child arrived at the manger, the basic bouquet had magically transformed into a spectacular show of red vibrant blooms and what we now know as the Poinsettia, was born and subsequently christened the ‘Flower of the Holy Night’.
The Poinsettia has a variation of names depending on the country that you live in. If you live in Chile and Peru, you will know the plant as ‘Crown of the Andes.’ Hungarians call the poinsettia ‘Santa Claus Flower’ and it is commonly used as a Christmas decoration. Poinsettia itself derives from the name of ‘Joel Roberts Poinsett’ who, in 1828 introduced the plant to the United States of America. A talented individual, Mr. Poinsett was a Botanist, Physician and the first United States Ambassador of Mexico. He sent cuttings of the now legendary plant he had discovered in Southern Mexico back to his home in Charleston, South Carolina to grow.
The Poinsettia, also called by its botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a colourful, decorative, floral symbol of Christmas, seen in homes and properties all around the world during the lead up and over the festive holiday celebrations. Flowering during the months of December and January, this plant makes a perfect choice in festive flower displays, and as a standalone showcase plant. Although do take care when handling or removing any damaged leaves as the white sap can irritate the skin. Perfectly formed petals in shades of pink, red and white look so striking, nestled amongst the contrasting forest green leaves of the plant. You may be interested to know that the coloured petals are leaves, known as bracts and that they are created through photoperiodism. This means that the plants need at least 12 hours of darkness each day during its growing period, together with strong daylight during the day to change their colour. This helps to maintain those lovely kaleidoscopic tones that we are all so fond of.
Caring For You Poinsettia
Poinsettias thrive indoors in nice even warm temperatures, with a minimum of 13°C, together with filtered, bright light. They can grow to over 2ft in height and 1ft in width. Over watering and cold is the most likely cause of problems, so it is advisable to purchase them from a warm greenhouse rather than a drafty supermarket door! and only water them once the compost has started to dry out. Regular misting of the plant’s foliage will create a humid temperature and help extend the life of the flowers. Feeding your plants will keep them looking tip top during the festive season. At the Garden Centre we have a handy drip feeder so nutrients are gradually released to promote resilience and strong growth – all with no mess, no fuss, and no mixing!
Our selection of young plants arrived on the Nursery this week from the local nursery at Royal Windsor palace. We stock traditional reds, but now other colours such as marbled, pink, and white have become more popular in recent years. They have been fed and spaced regularly to ensure that the finished plant is the best shape and colour possible. They are now at the end of their growing phase, and the top leaf bracts are in colour.
The variety we offer is the Princettia line of poinsettia, which we prefer for several reasons.
They hold their colour better than traditional varieties and are less prone to spotting of the bracts. They remain compact, making an even dome of colourful flower bracts. The flowerheads are not all placed on the top of the plant, but are at different heights, so unlike traditional poinsettias, there is colour throughout. They are more sturdy and less prone to stem breakage, meaning that they are more likely to last more than one season.
They have been grown under cooler conditions this season, resulting in a more resilient plant.
Plants from Holland, by comparison have been grown closer together, and forced on, resulting in poorer weaker growth.
There is of course only one problem, ‘Which colour will you choose?’