Poinsettia Flower History
As a DFW area landscaping company, we spend much of our time interacting with outdoor plants. However, during the holiday season as most of our north Texas winter plants are passing into dormancy, we can take some time to appreciate the indoor plants. One of the most glorious indoor Christmas plants is sure to be the Poinsettia. While the Christmas trees and wreaths cover our homes in green, the Poinsettia explodes with vibrant red foliage. We wanted to take a moment and share a bit more about the Poinsettia flower history and this marvelous holiday staple plant.
Poinsettia Flower Discovery
The Poinsettia flower was discovered in Mexico and originally known as the “Mexican Flame Flower”. It came to be known in the United States as the Poinsettia in 1836 when the first US Minister to Mexico and botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett began to send the plant home to his green houses in South Carolina. Today, while still known in the US as the Poinsettia, in Mexico and Guatemala, it is called Flor de Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve Flower.
Legend of the Poinsettia
The Poinsettia has a much longer historical association with Christmas however. Mexican legend dating back to the 16th century tells the story of a girl known as both Pepita or Maria who was very poor and did not have a gift to give for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. According to this legend, an angel inspired the girl to gather weeds from the side of the road and place them by the church altar. After placing them in front of the church altar, red blossoms sprouted from within the weeds and grew into a Poinsettia. By the 17th century, friars in Mexico would include Poinsettias in their Christmas celebrations. The shape of the Poinsettia leaf has been said to resemble the Star of Bethlehem and the deep crimson color of the foliage said to represent the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.
Celebrating the Poinsettia
In 2002, Congress declared December 12th to be National Poinsettia Day. Today, Poinsettias are considered a staple Christmas decoration throughout the United States and can even be found at most grocery and drug stores during the holiday season.
Poinsettia’s in our North Texas region are largely considered an indoor plant. Being a native plant to a much warmer climate region (Plant Hardiness Zones 9-11), our winter temperatures would damage the Poinsettia. Place your potted Poinsettia where it can have several hours each day of indirect bright light and plan to water it whenever the soil feels dry, perhaps 2 times each week.
Most people tend to throw their Poinsettia’s out when the Christmas decorations come down. However, if properly cared for, your poinsettia will bloom for up to 6 months. Leave an open spot for your Poinsettia during winter garden bed preparation and plan to plant it in the ground once the danger of freeze has passed which is typically around the first week of April. Plant the Poinsettia in a shady spot and fertilize it regularly. If your Poinsettia is still thriving once the fall season rolls around, replant it in a large pot and bring back inside.