The Poinsettia Plant - The inspiration of a Christmas Tradition
As you may well know, the Poinsettia is a symbolic flower, you could say it is a Christmas icon, being the most sort-after flower during the Christmas period and the one most used for Christmas decorations.
It comes in many colours, pink, white, green… Although the most common colour at this time of year is red.
But what do we know about this plant?
Known as the Christmas Flower or Poinsettia, it is a tropical plant originating from Mexico. In the XVI century, the Franciscan Friars (during the colonial period) decorated their church alters at Christmas time with these flowers on Christmas Day, hence the plant’s association with the Christmas holidays and re-creation of Nativity scenes.
However, its rise to fame (so to speak) happened when the U.S. Ambassador in Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett, (Doctor and Botany enthusiast) returned to his home country with some cuttings of this beautiful plant, which then became known in North America thanks to the development and cultivaton of this variety. To promote this beautiful flower, he gave it to his friends at Christmas, propagating both the plant and its use during the Christmas season, so much so, that in the United States, December 12th was proclaimed Poinsettia Day in tribute to Joel Poinsett after his death and in gratitude for having introduced this plant into the country.
The story of the Poinsettia flowers
There is a Poinsettia legend which says that one Christmas in Mexico, some very humble children went to see baby Jesus on display in a small church in the city in order to offer him their gift (as tradition dictated). However, they did not have a gift to offer him as they were very poor, so, the children picked this flower (which originally was completely green) and legend has it, that God was so touched by the childrens gesture, he turned the flower red to give this beautiful plant the importance it deserved.
It is said that this is why this plant is associated with Christmas and in particular Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Poinsettia, its origin and multitude of names
There is little documentation regarding the origin of this plant, the only information that exists is verbal information that has been passed down through the generations. The Emperor Moctezuma discovered the plant and picked it on a small hill in an area of southern Mexico called Taxco in the Guerrero state.
The young Emperor decided to take the plant to his Palace gardens in the city of Tenochtitlan. The aztec flower growers lovingly cared for the plant as they were captivated by its beauty and they used it for their religious ceremonies during winter. They were the ones who named it Cuetlaxochitl, the fire-coloured flower due to its scarlet-red petals.
The Poinsettia, also known in South America as the Inca Flower, The Christmas Star, Federal Star, Christmas Flower, Easter Flower, Christmas Eve and Pastora, however, it was in 1834 when it was given its scientific name “Euphorbia pulcherrima” which means the most beautiful.
A plant with many properties, its sap has been used to cure wounds, bites and stings, coughs… It is also used for the manufactre of tints and dyes.
You now know a little bit more about the origin of the beautiful Poinsettia plant, so don’t hesitate to decorate your home with this flower in order to create a magical Christmas ambience.
So, we are going to give you a few tips on how to care for your beautiful Inca Flower and ensure it looks great throughout the Christmas season.
How to care for your Poinsettia
The Poinsettia is quite a delicate plant. Below are a few tips to help you keep your plant looking great:
- Keep the plant away from draughts in a sunny spot but out of direct sunlight. The ideal temperature for the plant is around 22ºC. Take care with centrally heated locations as the Poinsettia requires a humid environment.
- Water every couple of days to keep the soil moist but do not over-water, don’t water directly, it is recomended to place the plant on a dish of water for around 15 minutes. You can also spray the leaves with a little water.
- Add a little liquid fertilizer every 15 days during flowering.
- To preserve the plant after the Christmas period, you can put it outside in the garden, however make sure it is protected from the cold and frost. If you want to keep it until the following year and in order for it to bloom again, you need to leave it in a dark environment for quite a while, not just at night, but also during the day for around 5 to 6 hours. This way you will get it to flourish properly and it will acquire its beautiful red colour.
All that remains for us to say is have a lovely Christmas decorated with Poinsettias, a traditional Christmas flower.
Are you excited?