South Carolina & The Poinsettia
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) may not make you think about Upstate, South Carolina but for me as a native of the Greenville, SC metro area I regard them as a plant of local importance. In Greenville everything is named after this beautiful flower... Poinsett Highway is home to Furman University (my wife's alma mater), the Poinsett Club is our most exclusive event location and even the city's Christmas Parade is the Poinsettia Parade. Also, the Poinsett Hotel, Park and so many more are all found in town.
South Carolina & The Poinsettia
The crimson bracts of the poinsettia we so identify with the birth of Christ were first identified and sent as cuttings to America by Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett who had a summer home in Greenville, SC along with a greenhouse. Poinsett who was born in Charleston, SC in 1779 and educated in England, was the first minister to Mexico in the early 1800's.
The plant he sent was then known as Flor de Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve Flower. Poinsettias which grow wild throughout Mexico became a symbol of Christmas due in part to the fact they bloom bright red during the Christmas season and in part to Mexican folklore. Legend says a poor young girl on the way to see Jesus in the manger could not afford anything but weeds she picked along the road side. These weeds miraculously burst into red flowers when she presented them. The Aztecs used the plant for centuries for medicine and dye with Mr. Poinsett introducing the plant to America over 200 years ago.
My Job Caring for Hundreds of Poinsettias
When I was in college I was in charge of our church's Christmas decorations. During the 1990's members of our church would purchase poinsettias in memory or honor of loved ones, so our church was filled with hundreds of the plants for which the care of all fell to me. You can imagine I learned a few tips to share with you.
Regard as Cut Flowers
When you purchase a poinsettia it will help you to remain sane if you regard it as a very long lasting cut flower. Unless you have a greenhouse or are an avid horticulturalist keeping a poinsettia year to year is not a good idea. I chunk mine after Jan 1. First of all as my Grandmother used to say, "a poinsettia just says Christmas" so they look out of place in February. Second, they are finicky and don't look very pretty as a plain green plant. Rarely do they turn red for the home grower the next season due to the conditions needed for them to bloom.
Keep Them Dry
Poinsettias do not like a great deal of water and like to dry out between watering. If you plan on keeping your poinsettia looking good over the holiday allow it to dry out between waterings. This means you may only water it two to three times during December. If they are wrapped in foil, make sure the water can drain away from the pot.
Remove Dead Leaves
When the lower leaves of the poinsettia begin to dry or fade remove them. Remember the flower petals are actually red leaves or bracts and can be damaged very easily or be bruised or cut. You will also notice that an injury bleeds with a latex white milky sap. This helps the plant retain moisture and deter insects. The sap can cause a slight skin rash so always wash your hands with soap and water after contact. When the sap dries on the plant you may notice it turns black but don't try to wash it off as you may cause more damage.
Loose The Foil
Unless you are banking many poinsettias together a single poinsettia will look much better with the foil covering exchanged for a pretty cache pot or basket. That way, it looks more like you grew it, and it will more harmoniously fit with your home's decor. Basically, foil looks cheap.
America's Best Selling Plant
Did you know Poinsettias are the best selling plant in America accounting for over $250 million in sales?