Very few Canadians pronounce poinsettia (poin-set-ee-uh) the correct way. Generally, we call the beautiful plant “point-set-ah. It doesn’t really matter. They are the most popular Yuletide plants sold in Canada and it would not be Christmas without them. About 70 million are sold each year in North America.
Their botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means “very beautiful.” Poinsettias weren’t sold as potted plants until the 1920s, but they were first introduced in the United States around 1825 Joel Poinsett, who was the American ambassador to Mexico He brought some plant cuttings from Mexico to his home in South Carolina.
The petal-like leaves are naturally red but plants are now available in hybrid shades of pink, burgundy, coral, white, pale green, and red and white (candy cane).
Poinsettias are known as flores de noche buena (flower of the holy night) in Mexico where there is a legend about a Christmas Eve miracle. Two poor children, who couldn’t afford flowers, picked a bouquet of weeds to place around the church manger. The weeds were miraculously turned into red star-like flowers.
Plants should be kept away from warm or cold drafts and watered when dry. Although my poinsettias are usually lifeless by Easter, healthy poinsettias can be placed outside in the summer.
Some people attempt to get the plants bloom again. Poinsettias need about 10 weeks with 12 hours or less of sunlight per day. The plant should put in complete darkness from 5 pm to 8 am from Oct. 1 to the end of November. During the day, the plant can be left in a sunny window with continued watering and fertilizing. Around the last week of November, plants can be left out of the dark and flower buds should appear. Stop fertilizing about Dec.15. Keep watering. If all has gone well, the plant should be back in bloom by Christmas.
Downtown Sudbury merchants will give shoppers a poinsettia plant Saturday, Dec. 10 if they have $75 of receipts from shopping downtown between Nov. 17 and Dec. 10. The downtown association has a gift centre at 125 Durham St.
While eating poinsettias will not kill you, they can make you sick. I recommend drinking them instead.
The Poinsettia is an elegant sparkling white wine cocktail. Pour 1/2 oz. Cointreau or triple sec over three ounces of cranberry juice and top with sparkling wine. Cheers!
Vicki Gilhula is the editor of Sudbury Living