Wild in the highlands of Central America, reaching a height of up to five metres, grows a vibrant plant known as Flores de Noche Buena – ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’. Treasured by Mexico’s people, it was first put to use by the Aztecs, adorning temples with its intense symbolism. Steeped in legend, it has since garnered a varied and celebrated global reputation, most notably as a favourite festive houseplant commonly known as the poinsettia.
Blood of an Aztec goddess
The Aztecs, who lived in today’s Mexico between the 14th and 16th Centuries, called the poinsettia plant Cuetlaxochitl, which means ‘leather flower’.It was used to embellish temples, and was seen as a symbol of new life for warriors who had fallen in battle, and also provided a healing plant and coloured dye. Aztec legend says that Cuetlaxochitl was the favourite flower of Montezuma, the Aztec ruler. He believed thered stain on its upper leaves came from the blood of anAztec goddess who died of a broken heart. His legend spread all the way to Europe, where it most likely inspired the poinsettia’s French name; Étoile d’amour, or Star of Love.
Proper placement: warm and draught-free
Your Christmas gem is originally from Mexico, which explains its sensitivity to cold and wind, but that’s not to say it can’t be at happy in a cosy British home. Just keep it somewhere that attracts daylight; a windowsill would work, so long as the window isn’t left open, and bear in mind its favourite temperature falls between 15 and 20°C, so it should be happy in most living rooms.
Remember the golden rules: poinsettias need warmth and light, and must be kept away from draughts (that means NO fireplaces, NO open doorways, NO open windows, and NO breezy hallways).
How to buy
When selecting your plants from Garden Centres or Grocery stores, in order to obtain a high-quality plant that will last well in your home; if possible ensure that:
- The plants are kept in a light, warm, draught free sales area
- The potting compost is reasonably moist
- The leaves are an even green colour- no yellowing or leaf drop
- The coloured bracts are not damaged or burnt
- If the central yellow flowers are present (Cyathia)- they are not dropping or dried out
- From November, poinsettias are available in stores everywhere.
- Select a reliable supplier with Home Grown plants!
If all these factors are good then you will have many weeks enjoyment from your poinsettia. Finally, when you’ve chosen your poinsettia, make sure to wrap it up warm for the journey home;
- Keep it in a bright, warm spot (around 20° C).
- It can be close to a radiator, but not in direct sunlight or near draughts – so keep away from open doors, windows and fireplaces.
- Don’t over-water it by leaving a pool of water in the bottom of the pot it’s sitting in. Only water when the soil is almost dry.
Given up? Go for flowers!
If by any chance you have an accident with your poinsettia plant and one or more of the stems break off the plant, it is still possible to enjoy the coloured bracts as cut flowers in a vase or even floral foam. They wont last quite as long as the pot plant but will keep for several days once you have sealed the stem and stopped the latex flow by dipping them in hot water at 60˚C for 20 seconds and then into cold water for 10 seconds.
Poinsettia comes in a huge range of colours and forms
You can select the type you need at your favourite retailer or nursery or you can buy smaller plants and put them together in your own arrangements.