The Legend of the Poinsettia

How the Poinsettia was first used as a symbol of Christmas and how to choose a beautiful plant that will last through the season.


As we run around doing our holiday shopping and decorating our homes, we are surrounded by poinsettias.  These wonderful plants are identified with Christmas almost as much as the Christmas tree.  But did you ever wonder why they are associated with this holiday?  It is actually a charming story.

The Legend

Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve services. As Pepita walked sorrowfully to church, her cousin Pedro tried to console her. "Pepita," he said, "I am certain that even the most humble gift, given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes." Pepita gathered a bouquet of common weeds from the roadside, for this was the only gift she could give. As she entered the chapel and approached the alter, her spirits lifted. Forgetting the humbleness of her gift, the girl laid the weeds at the feet of the Christ Child. Suddenly, Pepita's ordinary weeds burst into brilliant red blooms! This miraculous event was named the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night. Today, we call these flowers poinsettias.

Dr. Joel Poinsett, who was the first ambassador to Mexico, brought the bright red star-shaped flower to the United States. Hence, it was names as Poinsettia.

A very popular misconception is that poinsettias are poisonous, but scientific tests have shown that this is false. It is true, though, that the milky latex sap can be irritating to some, particularly individuals with sensitive skin, but the plant in general, is safe.

Selecting a Healthy Poinsettia

Choose a plant with completely colored and expanded bracts. The bracts are the colorful part of the poinsettia, while the true flowers are the small yellow centers.   

Look for plants with dense, plentiful foliage all the way to the soil line. The plant should be about 2 1/2 times larger than its pot size.   Select plants with strong, stiff stems and no signs of wilting.  Be wary of plants displayed in paper, plastic or mesh sleeves, for these can reduce air flow.

How can I make my poinsettia last during the holiday season?

   * Place the poinsettia in a sunny window.

   * Do not let any part of plant touch cold window panes.

   * Indoor temperatures from 60 to 70°F is ideal for long plant life.

   * High temperatures will shorten the life of the colorful bracts.

    *Water only when the soil is dry.

    *Placing your poinsettia in a cool room 55 to 60°F at night will extend blooming time.

   * Do not fertilize when plant is in bloom.

  *  Avoid temperature fluctuations and warm or cold drafts.

Although poinsettias are in abundance at local supermarkets and the price is relatively cheap, the quality is often not good as the plants you can purchase at a nursery or florist.  Your local florist can also wrap and deliver your poinsettia as a special holiday gift to family, friends and/or clients.   You may want to change things up a bit this year, so instead of the typical red poinsettia, ask about unusual  varieties, such as "Marble",  which have bracts that are deep cream with rosy red splashes.   Pinks, also known as "Peppermint"  are a very different option as well.   The whites and pale creams are also widely available and popular.  But, of course, the red poinsettia is a classic that never disappoints.

Posies Florist wishes you all a peaceful and joyous Holiday season.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert Yates December 17, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Great article; thanks for sharing. For anyone interested, children's author Tomie DePaola wrote and illustrated a beautiful book entitled "The Legend of the Poinsetta"


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