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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cordall

Happy Christmas...Poinsettia? How to make it last past boxing day

Why do we have these at Christmas? before we talk on how to (try) and keep them alive, a little history. Christmas is a time for stories.

Back to 16th Mexico, where the plant comes from, and the story goes that a little girl called Pepita, could not afford presents to celebrate Jesus's birthday. An angel told her to gather weeds and place them at her church's altar. Some days later, crimson flowers blossomed from the weeds. These blossoms, Poinsettias. After this, Franciscan, monks in Mexico started to use them on their Christmas celebrations, and the practise has spread worldwide... and the rest is festive history, or is it?

As with many things, there is another explanation. The Ecke family, early in the 1900s moved to America. The saw a red flowered bush growing wild and flowering in winter, so they started to cultivate them. Fast forward to the 1960's and Paul Ecke Jr, took the reins and was a master marketeer. He sent them out to TV stations, woman's magazines...but the magazines told him that the shoots for their Christmas editions took place in the summer. He was too late. So he developed a strong cultivar that flowered out of season, in the summer, just for magazine product placement. 1960's America loved the glossy magazine room sets and rushed out to replicate them. Now, the rest is history. 35 million are sold every Christmas in the USA.

We buy around 8 million poinsettias a year in the UK. The good new is that around 50% are now grown in the UK. Hopefully one day, it will be 100%.

Poinsettias are annual plants, but you can keep them going to Spring, if you follow some simple rules.

  1. Don't over water, they hate sitting in damp. Let the compost dry out a bit (top 2-3 cms) and them water, probably around every 4 days

  2. They need warmth, but not central heating is not their friend. The ideal temperature is 16C, with a max 22C. So you really need to keep them in a cool room -probably where you can't see them. Keep them on show in your most Christmassy room with a lovely open fire, and well....Lets just say you'll definitely be struggling to get to New year.

  3. Get the light right. These pics are great for any house plant. You are aiming for the middle effect. The first photo is too dark and C too bright / scorching.

4. Give them a feed. Any soluble general purpose plant feed will do - but don't overfeed, read the back of the packet. Too much to feed will actually harm the plant.

And that's it? Simple, but also very hard to balance. You've bought it or been gifted it - you want to see it...So if you can't do Christmas without the red flowered wonder (frankly, I can...not my fave and I think a bit wasteful...also the red flowers are technically bracts -i.e. leaves...but that's another story)… here's some ideas. Bet you don't put these on Instagram...

Happy Christmas. Is been one hell of a year...…but we are here, so do enjoy x

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