The poinsettia has been a staple of our Christmas decor for so many generations that it’s hard to tell where the tradition started. While we’re used to pairing our cheerful, rosy-colored plants with glittering snow, they actually call the warm forests of Mexico home! They were popularized in the 1820s in America and quickly became an American Christmas favorite that welcomes the holiday season into our homes.
The Story of the Poinsettia:
Christmas is a time for traditions and stories. While most of us love to make new family memories around the Christmas tree, surrounded by the warmth of our homes, our poinsettia brings its own Christmas story to our homes.
In its native land, our beloved seasonal plants are known as ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or Flowers of the Holy Night, where they bloom in stunning displays along humble roadsides at Christmas time. The myth goes that a poor peasant girl was going to church for Christmas and the only thing she could afford to bring as a gift to lay on the altar was a bouquet of weeds. While the other church-goers snickered at her poverty, the weeds miraculously turned into beautiful poinsettia flowers fit for a King – a reward for the love her gift represented.
When the blooms were brought up to America by Joel Roberts Poinsett, they quickly caught on and became one of our favorite Christmas traditions, too. Regardless of their humble origins, poinsettias are now a lush, tropical decoration that our homes can’t be without for that straight-from-the-snowglobe holiday look.
We have always adored the beauty of our poinsettias and know that they are the finishing touch on festive decorations. They traditionally dazzle with gorgeous Christmas-themed contrast between the deep green and rich scarlets proudly on display on wide, tropical foliage. While a plant hailing from such warm climates may seem an odd fit for our chilly winter festivities, we love the reminder of warmer days to come combined with our favorite Christmas hues.
While the first poinsettias were limited to red and green, we now get to enjoy a wide variety of looks and styles with multi-colored and unique choices available making it easy to bring the beauty of this traditional flower home, while expertly coordinating it to your Christmas decor.
Choosing the Perfect Poinsettia:
To make sure that your poinsettia is looking its best and still giving a vibrant show all the way through the end of the holiday season, you’ll need to start with a healthy plant.
Look for a plant that stands out in color and quality. The best poinsettias have rich and deeply colored leaves that grow on a plant that is broad and well-branched. These qualities will show proper seeding and growing in good, cool conditions to give you the highest-quality plant that your holiday season deserves. Tall plants that are spindly, floppy, or pale don’t have the healthy start they need to be looking fantastic for longer.
Avoid purchasing a plant with any yellow or curled leaves on the lower stem. These could be an early sign of root-rot, a fungus that can set in from overwatering. You’ll want to take home a plant that starts off right, rather than fighting the mistakes of their grower.
Look for a plant that is still young so that you can be sure that it will bloom through the holidays and into the new year, rather than quitting a week before your festivities. If the blooms have opened already and have black pollen tips, it’s near the end of its shelf life. Instead, look for beautiful specimens with closed buds (if you’re buying early in the season) or open blooms with yellow pollen tips for a plant that will look its best.
Even if temperatures are above freezing, insist that your poinsettia is wrapped up in a paper sleeve while you take it home. These gorgeous Christmas beauties are as tropical as they come, and while we might associate them with frost-tipped nights, they will need protection from any amount of cold.
Caring for Your Poinsettia:
Taking home the best poinsettia in the store is only the first step to having that picture-perfect Christmas look. You’ll also need to maintain your plant to have it looking amazing all month. The problem that most people face when bringing home their poinsettias is killing them by over-doting. While it’s easy to want to focus all your attention on your stunning showcase plant, they’ll actually be much happier and healthier if you give them less love.
Make sure that the surface of your poinsettia’s soil is dry to the touch before you water again. It’s easy to overwater, so keep an eye out for yellowing leaves near the base, which is a blemish that will warn you if there’s too much moisture.
Shelter your tender tropical beauty away from any cold drafts from doors or windows. You’ll also want to keep it away from dry and hot drafts from furnace vents, as well, as these can easily harm your poinsettia’s delicate leaves.
During the holidays, it’s natural for us to want nothing but the best. Poinsettias are a stunning tropical reminder of our beautiful summer gardens full of annuals, all while being a lovely living centrepiece that’s a match for anyone’s Christmas style. All the baubles and ribbons simply can’t compete with a living, stylish feature at the heart of your Christmas decorations!