The Poinsettia has long been a traditional flower used during the winter holiday season. Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were first introduced into the United States by J.R.Poinsett, the first ambassador to Mexico. Poinsettias were used as exotic plants in conservatories and botanical gardens until 1900.Through the work of Elbert Ecke in early 1900’s, Poinsettias were grown in Southern California as cut flowers. Today this family is recognized as the leading producer of poinsettias in the United States.
The Poinsettia flower is a small, yellow flower that grows at the terminal end of the plant. The flowers are being surrounded by colored bracts from just below, the leaves that give the poinsettia’s its brilliant display. The most common bract color is flaming red but through years of research, other colors have also been introduced in the market. Some of these colors are white, pink, yellow, marble a light pink and white bi-color, white variegated. These bracts are often mistaken for petals. Poinsettias require a short day for the production of the flower which in turn is necessary to produce the color in the bracts. The actual flowers are the small yellow structures with yellow glands found at the center of the colorful bracts, called cyathia.
Poinsettias are shrubs to small trees, where they typically reach a height of 7 to 16 cm (3 to 6 inches) in length.
These flowers should be grown in full sunlight to ensure the minimum of competitors of pollinating insects. During months with long days, the plants develop leaves and increase stem length. The plant forms the flower buds naturally during late September and early October. During November and December color develops in the bracts. Poinsettias may be grown in many different media. Whatever type of medium is used, it must be porous and well drained. This allows for maximum root development. Poinsettias also require a generous supply of Fertilizer and moisture. These flowers may be slow to open, but once they bloom, the flowers can last for several weeks.
Poinsettia is often used as a floral Christmas decoration for two reasons. First, its festive colors and second because of a story. This connection of poinsettias with Christmas comes from a Mexican legend which tells of a poor girl who had no present to leave at the altar for the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus since she had no money. On the way to Church she started weeping where an angel suddenly appeared when she heard her crying, and then the angel tells the girl to pick some weeds and make a bouquet out of it. She kneels by the roadside and somehow gathers a handful of common weeds and makes her way to a small chapel where she put her offering at the foot of the altar and beautiful red poinsettias sprouted from each stem. So the Mexicans renamed it Flor de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Flower) and this is how poinsettias came to be associated with Christmas. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day which equals celebration, success, reassurance, and good cheer.