By Marion McParland
No other plant conjures up holiday sentiments like the poinsettia. Its spectacular colors have made this plant second only to the Christmas tree as the most popular holiday plant. In fact, more than 34 million poinsettias were sold in 2013, according to the 2013 USA Floriculture Statistics report. They remain the highest selling potted flowering plant, followed by the Easter lily and potted orchids.
What makes the poinsettia so special? Did you know it isn’t its flowers, but its leaves? The colored leafy parts, known as bracts, or modified leaves, turn color in response to the plant forming flowers. The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center, or cyathia.
Shopping Tip: When shopping for your poinsettia, make sure to choose one with some buds that are not yet open.
Native to Mexico, the plant flourished in an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon. The perennial shrub grows 10 to 15 feet tall there. The poinsettia was more than a decoration to the Aztecs. They extracted a purplish dye from its bracts for use in textiles and cosmetics. The milky white sap, today called latex, was used to
The poinsettia may have remained a regional plant had it not been for Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779 – 1851). The son of a French physician, Poinsett was appointed as the first United States Minister to Mexico (1825 – 1829) by President Madison. Poinsett had attended medical school himself, but his real love was botany. Mr. Poinsett sent seeds and plants to Col. Robert Carr, who was married to Ann Bartram-Carr, the granddaughter of the famous American nurseryman John Bartram. It was Col. Carr and Bartram’s Garden who introduced the poinsettia into cultivation and commercial trade at the first exhibition of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society on June 6, 1829, the first Philadelphia Flower Show. To learn more about the poinsettia, visit “The Poinsettia Story,” an exhibit examining the history of poinsettias and their special connection to PHS, on view in the PHS McLean Library, November 25 through December 19.
Starting this week, stop by PHS Meadowbrook Farm for a beautiful selection of poinsettias, including ‘Carousel Dark Red,’ ‘Red Glitter,’ ‘Marble,’ and ‘Viking Cinnamon,’ along with traditional pink, red and white plants. These easy-to-care-for plants do well with a good amount of light and an average amount of water.
Care Tip: Don’t let your plant sit in water, as that can cause it to begin to rot. If you are given a poinsettia wrapped in foil, be sure to take it out of the foil so the water can escape.
PHS Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1633 Washington Lane in Abington Township, Pa. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 215.887.5900 or click here. PHS members always save 10% on plants. Become a member on site and save on your purchases.
Save the Date: Meadowbrook Farm Holiday Open House, Saturday, December 6, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Enjoy festive holiday fun for the whole family at PHS Meadowbrook Farm, including free s’mores, tours of the estate home decorated for the holiday, and a free craft activity for the kids.