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The epitome of Christmas horticulture – the poinsettia

Ornamentals Advisory Blog
06.12.2019

Poinsettia. Other than the Christmas tree, it’s the horticultural symbol of Christmas, isn't it? With “The Big Day” just a couple of weeks away, the 12th December is in fact National Poinsettia Day. This is an initiative created as part of the Stars for Europe campaign and is promoted throughout UK garden centres. It appears to be backed up with peak sales of the pot plant according to the ultimate Christmas food shop, Marks and Spencer. Perhaps it’s not just any Christmas plant, it’s a Marks and Spencer Christmas plant…?

You may have seen some stats on our social media accounts (see links below if you don’t already follow us…) that in “peak poinsettia week”, it accounts for 42% of Marks and Spencer’s Christmas plant range and 10% of its houseplant sales for the entire year. Perhaps one for the quiz fans amongst us, but they anticipate sales of over 635,000.   

Further inspection and I’ve found this plant in a majority of my friends and family’s homes. They always buy one, like most things at Christmas, they’re a tradition but they don’t know much about it. Therefore I’m taking this opportunity between mince pie, Christmas cake and advent calendar chocolate scoffing to find out why this bright red pot plant makes its way homes and where it really comes from. For me personally, I’d never bought one until about 2 weeks ago. 

 

But, what else?

  • Its native homeland is Mexico and Central America
  • Not just red, it also blooms in cream, lemon, peach, pink and white with gold splashed leaves
  • The name derives from the former US ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel R. Poinsett who introduced it to the USA
  • They can reach 16ft in height
  • For some, the star shaped bracts symbolise the Star of Bethlehem

They will lose their colour come spring, but that doesn’t mean throw them out. Just look after them and the bracts will recolour once again the following year. Let’s hope my ability to kill pot plants doesn’t extend to this come spring, although I don’t hold much hope for it.

From a grower perspective, they’re a risky, expensive seasonal crop to fit into greenhouse rotations but with sales of over 4 million per year, they are certainly something not to be ignored and I made sure that my particular poinsettia was a UK one.

With a slightly more informal take on our usual blog, I hope you now know a little more about this beautiful plant and that you luck out in the Big Family Christmas Quiz to swoop in and take first prize (perhaps that’s just my own wishful thinking…).

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all, we look forward to sharing more of our Art of Application knowledge with you plus even more exciting things to make sure you get the most from your ornamental crops.

 

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