You must read the legendary story and history of poinsettias to discover the reason why these plants are regarded as the main Christmas flower.
Native to Mexico, this plant was brought to the United States in the 1820s by Joel Roberts Poinsett.
It was then the genius marketing campaign by the Ecke family made it common among Americans to associate this flowering plant with decorating their celebrations.
Prominent for their vibrant coloured foliage, which are bracts, are used to elevate the decoration during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Though available in pink, creamy, burgundy, and whitish pink, red-colored poinsettias with star-shaped foliage are popular in the U.S. & U.K.
Red-colored bracts are not flowers; it’s just the leaf tissues that turn red. The true flowers are very tiny and yellow and can be seen in the center, surrounded by red bracts.
Are Poinsettias Only for Christmas?
Though poinsettias are prominent at Christmas, they can also be grown as beautiful green houseplants with proper care.
Poinsettia plants are gifted or used to décor for Christmas. Through generations, this Mexican native plant has been conveying its Christmas greetings with beautiful bracts.
But, after the holidays, the plant starts to lose its red-colored foliage. It’s completely natural, and there’s no need to worry about it.
As a plant lover, you must take proper care of this Christmas star plant.
Pruning faded leaves, giving sufficient light, and maintaining an ideal temperature will keep the plant healthy. However, you may see those red bracts later.
It takes two months to turn its green foliage to red. The plants must be kept in the dark for 14 hours to turn the leaves red.
Why Are Poinsettias Associated with Christmas?
The popularity of this flowering plant, which was once regarded as a useless weed in Mexico, was started by a hybridizing technique by the Ecke family, who later marketed it extensively.
Paul Ecke Sr. was a visionary businessman and horticulturist who gave a smart makeover to the poinsettia by his secret breeding technique. Thus, the delicate plant turned into a sturdy potted plant.
Paul Ecke Jr. started extolling the virtues of this flowering plant and sent free poinsettias to television networks from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Uniform perfect plants with vibrant colored bracts poinsettias have become almost synonyms to Christmas.
Christmas is near, and you’ll see millions of poinsettia plants appear in the streets.
Offices, homes, and public places are decorated with these flamboyant blooms.
Red is the traditional red color, but modern cultivars and hybridizing techniques gifted us with varied colored poinsettia plants.
As a plant nurturer, you must know the story and history behind poinsettias association with Christmas.
It will allow us to bring back the lost tradition of the intangible quality of poinsettias and caring for these plants after serving your celebration décors.
What Is the Story of Poinsettia and Christmas?
The legend story goes like this: a girl named Pepita or Maria wanted to gift Jesus but couldn’t afford anything.
Inspired by an angel, she placed roadside weeds before the Jesus statute, which turned into red star-shaped leaves named Holy Night; later on, it got its name as poinsettias.
Since then, Franciscan friars have included poinsettias in their Christmas celebrations.
Historical Facts behind Poinsettias
Scientifically known as Euphorbia plurcherrima, poinsettias were transported to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett from Mexico.
He was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. In the late 1820s, he started propagating poinsettias in the United States and started selling them. (Source)
It is also said that the Ecke family bought acres of land near Hollywood to cultivate poinsettias.
As mentioned, Paul Ecke Sr. came up with his secret breeding technique that resulted in sturdy potted poinsettias.
Later, the family carried out extensive marketing campaigns to promote its use at Christmas.
Dr.Ruth Kobayashi shares how it takes lots of hard work to bring the poinsettias to the place. Unfortunately, these living things are treated as dirt after Christmas.
Ecke family is still the largest producer of poinsettias in the world, holding a 50% share.
Through generations, this family has put their time and energy towards this plant. You can read this interview on LAtimes.com.
International Rise of Poinsettia Plants
Every year, approximately 70 million poinsettias are sold in the U.S. alone. In the U.K., the number is nearly 8 million.
It all started with Paul Ecke Sr., who started the idea of propagating poinsettias in pots.
For decades, the Ecke family held a monopoly in selling poinsettias in the United States. But this changed when the secret breeding technique of the Ecke family was out; this paved the way for competitors.
However, as of 2008, the Ecke family still holds a 70 percent market share in the U.S. and a 50 percent share in the world.
Right now, poinsettias are grown in the greenhouse and sold one month prior to the Christmas holidays.
They are pampered and cared for before they reach you, and it is your responsibility to care for this beautiful plant and not just throw it away after Christmas.
What Does the Poinsettia Symbolize?
In modern traditions, poinsettias are the symbol of love, hope, and goodwill. It is regarded as a flowering plant that is given and received on Christmas Eve.
In the U.K. and the USA, the poinsettia is primarily regarded as a symbol of Christmas and carries a similar meaning.
It is commonly associated with the holiday season, where people exchange poinsettias as tokens of goodwill and community spirit.
However, in religious communities, this flowering plant is seen as a representation of the Star of Bethlehem due to its star-like leaves.
It is due to the legend story that this flower comes from Mexico.
In Turkey, the poinsettia is considered a symbol of Turkish patriotism due to its association with the flower.
On the whole, poinsettias stay as meaningful gifts that are given and received on Christmas and beyond.
How to Choose the Best Poinsettia Plants for Christmas?
Poinsettias are prominently known for their red color, but with different cultivars, now you also have pink, white, creamy, and burgundy colors.
Remember the below-mentioned points so that you take home the best poinsettias.
- Please don’t go for a poinsettia plant that is close to doors, as cold drafts might damage it.
- Insert your finger into the potting soil and ensure it is damp. Very wet or dry soil implies the plant may face overwatering or underwatering issues.
- After purchase, you should protect the poinsettias from outside temperatures. Poinsettias can’t survive in cold temperatures below 50F.
How to Care Poinsettias?
With proper care, you can keep the poinsettia plant alive all year round.
Otherwise, you may damage its beautiful foliage even before the Celebration starts.
Often, people forget their poinsettia in the car and leave it in the cold. Though in some cases you can revive such plants, consistent low temperatures can kill the root system.
- Place the poinsettias in a room that gets bright, indirect sunlight. This flowering plant needs 4-6 hours of sun exposure.
- Maintain temperature above 65F for optimal growth.
- Temperature below 50F will result in yellow and dropping of poinsettia leaves.
- Avoid overwatering your poinsettias. Check the soil is moist and water generously.
- To promote plant growth, you can use balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
- To bushier growth, you should cut the tip of the poinsettias.
- For red-colored leaves, the plant must be covered in dark for 14 hours per day. Lack of light reduces chlorophyll, and the new leaves appear in vibrant color.
- Proper care can keep the plant alive even after the blooming period. However, the leaves stay green.
The association of poinsettias with Christmas dates back to the 18th century; even today, poinsettias symbolize love and goodwill and are a must-have at Christmas.
The legend, story, and history of poinsettias are interesting.
How this Mexican native plant, which was once termed a weed, raised to the number one selling flowering plant in the United States.
It is the secret breeding technique and genius marketing campaigns of the Ecke family that made Americans and people all over the world love, gift, and receive this Christmas star plant.
It takes months of care to get one poinsettia to market, and it is available for you for a cheap price (in some stores). I just care to keep it alive even after Christmas.