Saturday, November 21, 2020

Poinsettia---La Flor de Nochebuena

Poinsettias as tree decorations at Longwood Gardens

 My Mom's favorite flower, the red poinsettia, has been associated with Christmas since the Ecke family, growers in Encinitas, California, began marketing it as such in the early 1900s. Paul Ecke saw how the poinsettia grew and bloomed late in the season, and established greenhouses that began to cultivate the plant through breeding.
The Ecke name is synonymous with poinsettias

As the business grew, his son and grandson, Paul Ecke Jr. and III found ways to market the plant to the American consumer first, then to Europe and beyond. In the USA and Canada, poinsettias are the best selling potted flower in the land. Orchids own the title worldwide. 

Today, poinsettias are grown and sold in the millions. While red plants reign supreme, shades of pink, bi-colors, and white plants with interesting bract shapes and even variegated leaves are available from area growers and our own greenhouses in Hydes. Maryland. 

Poinsettias on display in our greenhouse 

Princettias, with bright colors and unique growth habits, arrived on the scene a few years ago. They have become popular in our own greenhouses, especially in smaller pots and in our custom holiday baskets. 

Princettias are more compact than most poinsettias

The poinsettia is named for Joel Poinsett. As a scientist and diplomat, Poinsett traveled much of the world, though he called South Carolina home. He brought poinsettias back from Mexico, where he served as ambassador, and began cultivating them in his greenhouse. National Poinsettia Day is observed on December 12th each year, the day of Poinsett's death. The Congress passed the proclamation that created Poinsettia Day in honor of Paul Ecke Jr. who tirelessly promoted the plant.
Like pink? These poinsettias are for you

Poinsettias are easy to care for if a few simple procedures are followed. They thrive in room temperatures between 60 and 75 F. The cooler temperatures in the 60s will help the color last longer on the bracts which give the poinsettia its color. Remove plant sleeves that protect the plant from cold, as soon as they are home. Also, provide good drainage for the plants. Remove the foil pot cover often used for decoration when watering the plant. Place the poinsettia back in the foil cover or a decorative container once the excess water has drained through the soil. 

Suzanne and Katie, our 2019 Poinsettia Duo

Poinsettia displays in our greenhouse a few years ago

Poinsettias bloom with the arrival of short days. Would you like to rebloom last year's poinsettia? It will need about 14 hours of darkness daily, with no light interruption during those hours, starting about October 1. 

Most of our poinsettias are grown in our own greenhouses

November poinsettia color

Happily, tests conducted by the Ohio State University,  Penn State, Cornell, and other veterinarian learning institutions have concluded that the poinsettia is not poisonous. The white sap in the stems can be irritating and cause diarrhea and nausea, so do keep the plants away from pets. 

This plant with such a varied history was used as dye and medicine by the ancient Aztec civilization. My favorite story is the legend of the Poinsettia. Little Pepita, a young Mexican girl, was traveling to the chapel to view the manger and Baby Jesus. Being poor, Pepita had no gift to offer. She picked some weeds by the side of the road and laid them at the manger, where they turned into beautiful red flowers. La Flor de Nochebueana, Flowers of the Holy Night, has been part of our shared cultures' holiday remembrances for about a century.