Upon recent visits to garden centres and even many of our all supplying supermarkets I’m sure your eyes will have been caught by the flashy red and green of the Christmas poinsettia. Who cannot help but be drawn after these stunning houseplants with their gaudy red and deep green leaves?!
Smaller specimens can be picked up for a few pounds and with their intense red and green colouring they become an irresistible impulse buy with Christmas just round the corner making them Britain’s second most popular house plant only trailing behind the ubiquitous potted moth orchard.
History and Geography
Poinsettias real name is Euphorbia pulcherrima which means “the most beautiful euphorbia” and considering there are over 7,500 species of euphorbia that is quite a compliment! Euphorbia pulcherrima come from Mexico where they grow much like a straggly weed sometimes growing into almost tree like shrubs sometimes reaching over ten foot high. They got the name “Poinsettia” after Joel Roberts Poinsett who was a representative of the United States to Mexico as well as being a keen botanist. He brought Euphorbia pulcherrima to the US some time during the 1820’s and since then they have been known by his name – poinsettia.
They were successfully cultivated in the US during the early 1900’s by a German immigrant named Albert Ecke. Later generations of the Ecke family successfully marketed poinsattias as a Christmas themed plant during the second half of the twentieth century.
Poinsettias became popular as a Christmas house plant in the UK during the 1980’s and now many millions are sold each year.
Buying Your Poinsettia
I always try to buy British grown rather than imported plants for a number of reasons. British grown plants will almost always have a lower carbon footprint, they will be better acclimatised to our weather conditions, they are less likely to be carrying non-native pests or diseases and they will usually be more robust having had a less stressful journey to the garden centre. All of the above points are especially relevant when buying poinsettias which are relatively delicate plants and are very sensitive to cold and draughts, so much so that a poinsettia may look ok in the shop but if it has been over exposed to cold even for a few hours it will very likely die off over the next few days.
So look for a healthy British born specimen and make sure to fully wrap the foliage (ask the shop assistant for some polythene bags or flower paper) before you take it home.