One of the easiest ways to get a little festive at Christmas is to bring a beautiful poinsettia plant into the home. The favored color at Christmas is red, and these plants have amazing red and green foliage that last over the holidays to brighten up the home and add a natural touch to your decorations.
With this in mind, did you know that there is actually a Poinsettia Day? Many people are not aware of this. December 12th is Poinsettia Day each year and this is the anniversary of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the man credited with bringing the plant to the US.
Poinsett was a US physician and botanist and was a minister to Mexico when he decided to send back to the US cuttings of the plant. He found the plant in southern Mexico and wanted to have some of the plants at his home in Charleston, South Carolina. If you want to get technical, the scientific name of the plant is Euphorbia pulcherrima.
So, how did this plant get its own day? In 2002 the House of Representatives created this day, which is designed to honor the man who developed the technique for encouraging the poinsettia seedlings to branch. His name was Paul Ecke Jr and he is considered to be the father of the huge industry that has sprung up around these plants. You will see these plants everywhere over the holiday season; however, it still surprises people to learn that the US economy benefits to the tune of $250 million each year – and this is just wholesale.
This Christmassy plant has become the best-selling plant in both the US and Canada and it was only in the 1990s that the technique used by Ecke was published – until then it had been a secret. The Ecke’s ranch is now run by Paul Ecke III and is located in Encinitas, California, where it is still dedicated to the growing and development of the poinsettia.
The Spanish name for the plant translates as ‘flower of the holy night’ and in Mexico it has been associated with Christmas since the 1600s. The Mexicans connect the plant to a story about a girl who wanted to honor the baby Jesus with a gift and found weeds next to the road, which blossomed into the poinsettia. The Aztecs also had a use for it centuries ago, naming it the ‘star flower’ and creating a red dye from it; they also found medicinal uses for the plant.
These days you do not have to gather your poinsettias from the wild. You can purchase them anywhere, particularly in December, and they are a very inexpensive way of adding a festive touch of color to your home. Take good care of the plant and you may even be able to use it again next year – many people throw them away thinking that they are only good for one year. They also make great gifts, so if you know anyone who could do with cheering up, take them a poinsettia and pass on a little Christmas spirit.