Flower of the Month December: the Poinsettia

Poinsettia or the ‘Christmas flower’ is December’s flower of the month. Despite their deceiving name, we should actually say ‘plant of the month’. With over 8 million plants sold every year, it’s the UK’s number one selling houseplant during the festive season. Curious about how the Christmas flower got its name? Read on below.

poinsettia

Characteristics

The sub-tropical poinsettia (pronounced: poin-SET-ee-uh) originates from Mexico and has over 150 different varieties. The colours vary from (mostly) red to pink and from orange to creamy and white. Because of the many colours and varieties, they suit almost every Christmas interior. The name ‘Christmas flower’ is actually quite deceiving. The bright petals of the poinsettia – the eye catchers – are just the upper leaves of the plant (called bracts). The tiny flowers grow in the middle of each leaf bunch and have a green or yellow colour.

Origin

Like we stated earlier, the Christmas flower originated from Mexico. Poinsettia was named after Dr. Joel R. Poinsett. He introduced the poinsettia to the United States as the former US ambassador to Mexico. Every year on December 12th, people celebrate ‘Poinsettia Day’, to remember Dr. Joel R. Poinsett. The botanical name of the poinsettia is Euphorbia Pulcherrima. This literally means ‘the most beautiful Euphorbia’. Euphorbia is a large plant family.

poinsettia
poinsettia

Symbolism

But why is it called Christmas flower? You might wonder. This is due to an old Mexican legend. It’s a story about a girl who had no money to buy a gift for the baby Jesus at Christmas Eve services. She was reassured that any gift – big or small – would be just fine. So she picked a bouquet of weeds on her way to the church. When she got to the church, the weeds transformed into beautiful red poinsettias – the Christmas flower.

Another – more modern – reason to refer to it as ‘Christmas flower’ is that its blooming season coincides with the Christmas season. Secondly, the star-shaped bracts remind some people of the Star of Bethlehem. Lastly, its commonly red colour is perfect for the Christmas season.

Decoration

Poinsettias are mostly used as indoor house plants. However, you can also use poinsettia to make beautiful floral arrangements. And to stick with the Christmas cheer: they can be used in Christmas wreaths, eye-catching Christmas table centrepieces or even to bright up your Christmas tree.

poinsettia
poinsettia
Credits: Stars for Europe

Care tips

People often think that the Christmas flower is difficult to take care of. That’s why we listed two very important care tips below. If you stick to them, your Poinsettia will not give you a hard time.

  • 1. Poinsettias don’t like a lot of water. The plant’s root bale should neither dry out nor be drenched. If the leaves turn yellow or if they fall off, you’re probably overwatering it.
  • 2. Poinsettias need warmth and light. Their favourite temperature falls between 15 – 20 degrees. At the same time, it must be kept away from droughts. So, don’t put it in (front of) a fireplace, open windows or windy hallways.

The abovementioned care tips also apply to buying poinsettias. So, don’t buy poinsettias which are dripping wet or totally dry. Also, don’t buy them when they are standing close to the front doors. They don’t like the cold UK winds, so they will have been damaged by it.

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