- 21.09.2021 /
You know that the festive season is in full swing when beautiful poinsettias adorned with wonderfully coloured bracts festoon shops, restaurants and, of course, our homes. How much do you know about these Christmas wonders; their incredible journey to become a part of UK tradition, and how to keep plants at their prime throughout the holiday period and beyond?
The experts at Stars for Europe, the international poinsettia collective, have revealed all in their first ever Poinsettia Advent Calendar. We can’t place a chocolate behind every door but by Christmas Eve you’ll be a font of knowledge on all matters poinsettia, and in pole position should a poinsettia question arise during a festive pub quiz or game of trivia!
1st December – Poinsettias were once dubbed “the modern Christmas classic” and this title rings as true now as it did then. It’s no surprise that traditional reds top the sales charts, but did you know that these festive favourites also come in a host of shades, from shocking pinks to neutral creams, warm yellows, ice white and eye-catching variegated and marbled tones?
2nd – The poinsettia gets its name from the green-fingered American diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and the first United States Minister to Mexico, who spotted the enormous potential of these fabulous foliage plants during a trip to Mexico in the 1820s.
3rd – Although we buy poinsettias for their vividly coloured upper leaves, plants’ clusters of flower buds (called cyathia) are actually yellow and are located in the centre of the bracts.
4th – Buying tip: steer clear of poinsettias that have been marked down and appear to be past their prime. Sickly plants that are shedding leaves or displaying yellow foliage are unlikely to recover and should be avoided. Healthy plants with deep green lower leaves rule!
5th – Unlike the compact poinsettias we know and love, plants left to grow untamed in the wilds of their native tropical climates will reach for the skies, towering to staggering heights of up to 12ft (3.7m).
6th – The poinsettia is believed to have first been spotted by plant-hunters and explorers on expeditions to Mexico as early as the 17th century. It was officially listed as a new species in 1834.
7th – Poinsettias get their vivid red hues when they experience short days, with less than 12 hours of sunlight. So, in the run-up to Christmas, growers subject their plants to perfectly-timed periods of light and darkness, encouraging plants into putting on a blaze of colour in time for the festive season.
8th – Impress at a quiz if asked to identify the plant known in Latin as Euphorbia pulcherrima. You’ve guessed correctly… it’s the poinsettia!
9th – Fun fact: what’s the link between poinsettia and Christmas? There are a few legends in folklore. One tells of a little girl who picked a bunch of weeds to gift baby Jesus, which miraculously turned a beautiful shade of red. It’s also claimed that the plants’ star-shaped leaf formations are a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Wise Men to Jesus’ Bethlehem birthplace in the nativity.
10th – Planning to buy a poinsettia? Once purchased, don’t take your plant on a road trip. Poinsettias love to be kept cosy and can sulk if left to shiver in a freezing cold car. Get it settled into your warm home quickly.
11th – Keen to let your creative juices flow? Colourful poinsettia bracts are a perfect accompaniment in home-made hanging decorations and work a treat when incorporated into Advent wreathes complete with festive candles.
12th – Sunday 12th December is International Poinsettia Day. It commemorates the death of famed botanist Joel Robert Poinsett. Why not get into the festive spirit and snap up one of these Christmas wonders, helping to celebrate this Yuletide tradition from over the pond?
13th – Sudden changes in temperature are one of the biggest causes of sickly poinsettias. Ask the store checkout operator to carefully wrap your plant in paper to protect it from winter chills on the way home.
14th – Avoid placing poinsettias on window sills. Not only do they hate draughts, but temperatures plunge at night when curtains are closed, leaving plants in distress. Porches, fireplaces and conservatories are a no-no, too, as they get chilly at night in winter.
15th – Indoor plants bring cheer during the darkest days of winter. Poinsettias make great companions when displayed with other mid-winter favourites such as cyclamen, amaryllis, and the fragrant blooms of scented hyacinths and paperwhite narcissi.
16th – Keep your poinsettia at its prime for longer by watering sparingly – overwatering is the biggest poinsettia killer! Only water when the compost has almost dried out and never saturate the compost or leave pots sitting in water.
17th – Even temperatures make for a happy poinsettia – a minimum temperature of around 15C is required, but a warm room at around 20C is perfect. Keep poinsettias away from radiators or fireplaces where extreme changes in temperature can take its toll on plants.
18th – Looking to give a poinsettia as a last minute gift? Choose a healthy plant that’s located well within a store and don’t be tempted by bargains on freezing petrol station forecourts or trolleys at the entrances to shops, where plants could have been harmed by low temperatures and draughts.
19th – As our thoughts turn to the big day, consider miniature poinsettias to add festive accents to table decorations and don’t forget to buy Christmassy pot covers for that finishing touch. Snap your creation with your phone, upload to Instagram and wait for the ‘likes’ to roll in!
20th – Looking to create a stand out feature? Pick up a variegated or marbled poinsettia for your home. Breaking with the festive tradition for red and introducing a kaleidoscope of contrasting shades will ensure that your poinsettia is a real talking point.
21st – With the final countdown to Christmas now under way, poinsettia displays will be gracing a host of venues, from department stores to restaurants and churches. In fact, this tradition goes back as early as the 14-16th centuries, where Aztecs in today’s Mexico decorated temples with poinsettias – as the plants were considered to be a symbol of new life for lost warriors.
22nd – Let it snow! If the white stuff isn’t in the weather forecast, however, a last-minute purchase of white or cream poinsettias can help to create a winter wonderland indoors that’s evocative of snow, bringing rooms to life even if it’s dreary and raining outdoors.
23rd – Driving home for Christmas? Sit your poinsettia in the passenger cabin and not in the boot of the car, where the cold can harm plants. Once you’ve arrived, keep your poinsettia happy by locating it in a bright room with plenty of natural light.
24th – In its native Mexico, the poinsettia is called the ‘Flower of the Holy Night’ – a reference to Christmas Eve. Make a poinsettia the centrepiece of your celebrations as friends and family gather ahead of the big day. Merry Christmas!