Poinsettia: A Cherished Symbol of Christmas

The poinsettia plant, also known as the Christmas Star or Christmas Flower, has a history rich with tradition and meaning.

In Mexico, the arrival of the poinsettia plant is associated with the story of a young girl named Pepita. As the story tells, this girl wept on her way to church, on Christmas Eve, at her loss of a gift for the newborn Christ child.

Guided by her families faith that the most humble gift given in love will be accepted by the Christ child, she gathered a bouquet of weeds at the roadside. As she knelt at the alter to pray for the newborn, her bouquet blossomed into the most beautiful leaves of crimson red, white and green flowers.

Thus, the birth of the poinsettia plant, or, flores de la noche Buena (the flower of the holy night).

The first poinsettia plants were brought to America in 1828. For many North Americans, the plant has long held symbolism to the Star of Bethlehem.

The red, white and pink poinsettias are the birth flower for the month of December. In today’s language of flowers, the poinsettia symbolizes good cheer and success, which is said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.

Poinsettia plants come in shades of brilliant crimson red (which are the most popular of varieties), as well as white, cream, pink, salmon and even purple and maroon. Some varieties have variegated bracts in stripes, marble effects and spots with contrasting colours.

By following a few simple steps, you can enjoy a poinsettia plant all year long.

First, select a plant with healthy foliage, close to the soil line. Plants that have been exposed to cooler air temperatures will drop their lower leaves and branches.

Look for plants with large bracts that extend over the lower green foliage of the plant. Try to choose plants with small tight green button-like flower parts in the centre of the bracts. These bracts will develop into open flowers.

Poinsettias are sensitive to temperature changes and need to be placed away from both hot and cold drafts. This plant prefers temperatures between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius, with little fluctuation between day and night.

Allow your poinsettia to dry out between waterings. The poinsettia does require moisture to flower, so mist the plant regularly with warm water for flower abundant production.

For optimum plant maturity, fertilize regularly.

Around the world, people bring poinsettia plants into their homes and churches to celebrate the star that led the wise men, and the little child Pepita, to the Christ child. This holiday season, surround yourself in a plant rich in history and symbolism.

Like the story of the flores de la noche Buena tells, even humble gifts given with love, can blossom into something beautiful.

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