The Christmas Poinsettia has become Christmas’ most famous plant. In fact, the Christmas poinsettia plant (and in particular the red poinsettia) has become a symbol for Christmas the world over. Discovered fairly recently (by traditional standards) the poinsettia is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, who imported it from Mexico in 1828.
The legend of the Christmas poinsettia tells of a poor village boy in Mexico who wanted to give the Holy Child a gift, but had no money. In desperation, he picked some weeds on his way to church to leave as his gift. He prayed to God to help him show his love and God answered by turning the weeds into a beautiful star-shaped flower with bright red leaves. The poinsettia has been a Christmas symbol ever since.
Poinsettia plants can last weeks beyond the holidays when placed in indirect sunlight at least six hours a day. Keep it away from cold drafts and excessive heat and water your poinsettia when it feels dry. Remember at Christmas the air is dry or so you might need to water it more. After the blooming season is over, use an all-purpose fertilizer once a month for best results.
It was once believed poinsettias were poisonous, this is untrue – they are safe. However, avoid allowing your pets to eat the leaves as they will likely get diarrhea or experience vomiting. For humans though, scientific evidence of the poinsettia’s safety is ample and well documented, in fact poinsettias are actually helpful in removing pollutants from indoor air.
The history of the poinsettia plant is quite interesting. The plant is native to Mexico and came from a region near the present-day Taxco. In 1825, Joel Robert Poinsett was appointed the first US Ambassador to Mexico and discovered these plants blooming in December. A botanist himself, Poinsett sent some of the plants to his plantation in Greenville, South Carolina, where they flourished in his greenhouse. These brilliant red plants quickly became a favourite during the cold dark months of December and with over 70 million poinsettia sold nationwide each year, the poinsettia is now the number one flowering potted plant sold in north America.