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A Tropical Christmas Plant

by CountryLife Gardening | Dec 21, 2015

Poinsettias have become synonymous with Christmas and they seem to adorn a table in every single house around the country in the lead up to the festive
Poinsettias have become synonymous with Christmas and they seem to adorn a table in every single house around the country in the lead up to the festive. Yet while they have become such a big part of Christmas in Ireland poinsettia are actually a very tropical plant.

Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico and Central America where they normally grow into shrubs which can reach a height of 4 metres. They are commonly found in deciduous tropical forests in the region. In Irish climates however they are an indoor plant that stays as a foliage plant and rarely turns woody.

Poinsettia’s association with Christmas is said to date back to a legend from the 16th century in Mexico where a poor girl who could not buy a present to mark Jesus’ birthday and decided to pick weeds from the side of the road as an offering for the alter in her church. It is said when she did this crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias. The shape of the foliage is also said to be a symbol for the Star of Bethlehem.

Poinsettias are known for their vivid red and green foliage however some people confuse the red leaves with flowers. And while they do look like flowers they actually are not. The red part of the plant is called a bract which is simply a modified leaf. 

With their tropical origins it is important to remember this when you are buying poinsettias. I would recommend never buying one which has been left outside. If you do buy one which has been outside you will find once you bring it home that the leaves will fall off so it is best to buy ones which have been stored indoors in a warm area.

Our poinsettias are grown in Wexford and come in a cellophane sleeve. A good tip that I tell to customers when they are carrying their poinsettias to their car is to seal up the cellophane sleeve to create almost a make-shift greenhouse over them. This helps to protect them from any chill that might be in the air and keeps them safe until you get them home.

Once you do get them home it is important to keep them in a warm spot that gets lots of natural light throughout the day. It is also important to keep them moist and never let them dry out. I also like to give them a liquid feed every two to three weeks to keep them luscious. If you do care and look after your poinsettias it is easy to keep the plants luscious and green for up to a year.

poinsettia-are-available-in-pink,-white-and-redWhile everyone is accustom with red poinsettia those looking for something a bit different this year could try a white one or even pink varieties for something very different. While the standard sized poinsettia looked great if you are after a smaller seasonal present for friends or family you can buy miniature poinsettias which make fantastic presents in my eyes.

Written by Malachy

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Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

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