December 12th marks a unique day in the botanical calendar. It is the anniversary of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett – the American diplomat who popularised the appeal of the Mexican plant upon encountering it back in 1828.
Since then it has been ever closely associated with Christmas due to its vivid festive red bracts – though this year is set to see a departure in keeping with a growing trend – the rise of the ‘millennial pink’. There isn’t much that hasn’t seen a makeover in the colour in 2017. The dusty pink shade has become one of the most fashionable shades of the year and the poinsettia is ready to jump on the bandwagon just in time for the festive season. Specially bred to produce the distinctively tinged leaves, it is set to be a ‘star attraction’ in many homes this Christmas.
On the day itself, Florist Business editor Hannah attended a special workshop at McQueens HQ in London, where tutors Diana Martinez and Guiseppe Puddori demonstrated how to make a spectacular festive hand-tied using cut poinsettia bracts. If you’ve not tried using the plant as a cut flower, we urge you to try it as the leaves provide excellent value for money, covering a large area at a low cost. To ensure they remain fresh for longer, simply cut bracts from potted poinsettia plants and prevent the milky sap from leaking by dipping the cut end in boiling water.
Pictured above is McQueens tutor Diana Martinez, in front of their impressive poinsettia wall.
Workshop attendee and freelance journalist Kara O’Reilly, who co-authored recently released book ‘At Home With Plants’, with Ian Drummond
Florist Business editor Hannah Dunne
Blogger and trainee florist Lauren Hooper of The Happy Blossoms.
To celebrate National Poinsettia Day on December 12, Stars for Europe has put together some interesting facts and history about the Christmas plant we all know and love:
- The poinsettia grows in the highlands of Central America, reaching a height of up to five metres in its native environment.
- In Mexico, where the poinsettia is steeped in legend, it is known as Flores de Noche Buena – ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
- It is treasured by Mexico’s people and was first put to use by the Aztecs to adorn temples where it was seen as a symbol of new life for warriors who had fallen in battle.
- It is believed to be the favourite flower of the Aztec ruler Montezuma, who thought the red stain on its upper leaves came from the blood of an Aztec goddess who died of a broken heart. His legend spread all the way to Europe, where it most likely inspired the poinsettia’s French name – ‘Étoile d’amour’, or Star of Love.
- Legend has it that a little girl named Pepita was too poor to buy a real present for baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. So instead she picked green twigs from a shrub on her way to church and tied them into a bouquet. When she placed her gift at the foot of the altar, the twigs suddenly bloomed in a magnificent red. It is said that the Poinsettia’s Mexican name, Flores de Noche Buena originated here and hence it became the country’s official Christmas Flower.
- In 1804, the first poinsettia plant reached Europe, travelling with Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt.
- In 1828, the American ambassador in Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, brought poinsettias to the USA. It was in his honour, that the plant was given its name ‘poinsettia’.
- Poinsett died on 12th December 1851, and in 1852 US Congress introduced Poinsettia Day.
- There are 150 varieties of poinsettia with more added every year.
- Poinsettias are famous for being red, but they come in an array of sizes and gorgeous colours including winter white, antique peach, dark maroon, cinnamon, deep pink and more.
- This year, 8 million poinsettia plants will be sold in the UK.
- 120 million poinsettias are sold in Europe, making them the second best-selling pot plant after Phalaenopsis (orchid)