It’s Poinsettia Day!
What is Christmas decor without the classic Poinsettia plant hanging out in corners and clogging up stairways and adding a festive air to any room?
Even without a physical plant there are fake Poinsettias to decorate with, Poinsettia print fabrics, housewares and fashion accessories. Poinsettias are everywhere at Christmas, and that suits me just fine. They are my favourite holiday flower and most of the time I can keep them alive all through the Christmas season!
Native to Mexico and South America, there are over 100 varieties of Poinsettia. Once only available in red, they now come in many different colours. The bright hues are created through phototropism, they require 12 hours of darkness at time for at least 5 days in a row to change colour. Which is why they bloom in the shorter winter days.
The coloured “flower” parts of the Poinsettia are actually modified leaves called bracts. The flowers are the yellow centers in the middle of the coloured bracts. Both flowers and bracts are dropped when the flowers have shed their pollen. For the longest lasting plants, choose ones with the least amount of pollen.
Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico and introduced the Euphorbia pulcherrima to the United States from southern Mexico in 1828. This resulted in this beautiful plant being named after him and thus we have the Poinsettia.
December 12 marks the anniversary of his death and has become Poinsettia Day.
Since it’s introduction as a potted plant it has become the best selling potted plant in Canada and the U.S and has become the most popular Christmas plant sold, worth about $60 million in revenue. 80% of those sales are attributed to women. When growing naturally in the ground, Poinsettias can reach 10-15 ft. in height.
Now after all that, why do we use them, love them, buy them at Christmas? As good a reason as any is a story about a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to bring to church for the baby Jesus. She picked a bouquet of weeds from the side of the road. Embarrassed of her small gift, her cousin told her that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves Jesus will make Him happy.
Remembering this, she felt better and put her bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene at the altar. Suddenly the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers and everyone was sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on those bright red flowers were known as Flowers of the Holy Night.
Another, simpler reason is that Christmas colours are red and green.
In the 1920’s a horticulturist named Paul Ecke decided that these plants would make a fantastic Christmas flower and started growing them in earnest in fields in what is now known as Hollywood. Later Ecke who became instrumental in the promotion of Poinsettias moved south to Encinitas where now the Paul Ecke Ranch is continuing to grow Poinsettias for our enjoyment.
So, there you have it. Whatever the reason, Poinsettias are the Christmas flower of choice.
May your Christmas be as merry and bright as your biggest Poinsettia and may all your bracts stay in place until New Years.
Links to where I found my info!