Part One: The History of Poinsettias

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Christmas is right around the corner and it has us wondering about the custom of the poinsettia. Why is their vibrant red plant the “unofficial” flower of Christmas? And how do they stay that red? We will be doing a two part series on the history of poinsettias and their care over the next two weeks!

In short, the poinsettia became widely used at Christmas because this is the time it naturally blooms and grows. The plant is native to Central America and southern Mexico and is named after a man names Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was an ambassador to the United States from Mexico in 1825 and loved the plant.

A Mexican legend details how Poinsettia’s and Christmas come together and it goes like this:

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up. ‘Pepita’, he said “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus happy.”

Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.”

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December 12th is National Poinsettia Day – so make sure to celebrate by giving your plant some food for its roots!

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