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Here’s a handy guide to your Christmas poinsettia

Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower. By any name, they are the Christmas flower, although their flowers actually aren’t the colorful parts for which they are known.

But like an eager child who hasn’t made a wish list yet can’t wait to open gifts on Christmas morning, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, some poinsettia background:

  • Native to Mexico, poinsettias are perennial shrubs that can grow 10 to 15 feet tall.
  • Poinsettias were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
  • Dec. 12 is National Poinsettia Day in America, marking Poinsett’s death in 1851.
  • Poinsettias were first successfully grown outside Mexico by Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, a 50-acre National Historic Landmark that still operates.

Some people pronounce it “poinsetta” (three syllables), and others say “poinsettia,” (four syllables). We’re not sticklers either way. It’s more important that you enjoy your poinsettia and get the most out of it.

Grown in all 50 states

But while there’s leeway when it comes to pronunciation, there are strongly rooted facts about poinsettias:

  • The colored parts of poinsettias aren’t flowers but bracts (leaves).
  • Poinsettias come in more than 100 varieties, from traditional red and white to pink and burgundy, marbled and speckled.
  • Poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states.
  • Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United States.
  • Contrary to popular myth, poinsettias are not poisonous, to humans or pets: An Ohio State study found that a 50-pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache. Some people with latex allergies have had skin reactions to the sap that comes from poinsettia leaves.

Poinsettia care

Connells Maple Lee offers decorated and undecorated poinsettias in multiple color and size options.

Poinsettias are happiest in conditions that approximate their Mexican origin: as much bright light as possible, warm and never sitting in water. Like humans, they don’t like wet feet.

The plants can suffer from droopy leaves, a condition known as epinasty, if they are exposed to cold temperatures or experience a build-up of ethylene gas.

If you’ve ever shopped for poinsettias at a big-box retailer, you may have seen a rack of them still in their protective sleeves. What you’re really seeing is those plants being ruined because the sleeves trap ethylene gas. An experienced florist knows to remove the sleeves as soon as possible.

By any name or pronunciation, poinsettias are a beautiful and safe holiday tradition, a gift of Mexican origin that keeps giving to the world nearly two centuries later.

Additional source: University of Illinois Extension

 

We can’t promise eternity, but here’s how to make your evergreen wreath last longer

We see them on doors and fences, windows and walls.

Some are even attached to the fronts of cars and trucks.

The evergreen Christmas wreath is a ubiquitous holiday adornment. So much so, perhaps, that it’s easy to overlook its rich symbolism.

“The evergreen wreath — its circular shape an emblem not only of perfection and unity but also of the warm, enduring sun — later became a Christian symbol for Christ’s suffering and ultimate triumph over death,” according to a 1988 New York Times article. “It is believed that the holly wreath, with its sharp, pointed leaves, first represented the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross, the little red berries symbolizing drops of blood. Later wreaths were formed from a variety of pines and firs, with evergreens embodying eternal life.”

The tradition of bringing evergreen trees into homes dates to the 16th century, according to a Time magazine article, crediting Germans specifically. Pruning trees to make them fit or more shapely left “pieces of greenery” that lent themselves to wreath-making.

“These people were living in a time when everything in their lives was used until it was gone,” said Ace Collins, author of “Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas.”

Wreaths had other associations prior to Christmas, however: as “a prominent emblem of victory and power in ancient Greece and Rome.” Victorious athletes were crowned with wreaths of many sorts, including olives, laurel, wild celery and pine. Wreaths also were worn by priests, by brides and by guests at a feast.

‘Representation of eternal life’

In the context of Christmas, wreaths originally served as tree ornaments.

“They were formed into a wheel-like shape partially for convenience’s sake — it was simple to hang a circle onto the branches of a tree — but the shape was also significant as a representation of divine perfection,” Time wrote.

Similarly, evergreen trees were revered for their ability to survive winter.

“Together,” Time noted, “the circular shape and the evergreen material make the wreath a representation of eternal life.”

While you can’t make an evergreen wreath last forever, you can get the most out of one by following these simple tips:

–Fresh wreaths will get dry over time, but spray-on products such as Wilt Pruf seal moisture in (it works on garland and Christmas trees, too). Be sure to do this away from your door and before hanging the wreath to avoid making a mess.

–Wreaths can cook if placed between a door and a glass storm door, so hang them on an outside door exposed to the elements.

–Keep wreaths out of direct sunlight if possible, such as on a door under a porch roof.