Indoor plants

Blooming poinsettia

The Christmas star: the place it comes from, its spread

The poinsettia is an ornamental plant native to Mexico and Central America, which in the wild has the appearance of a shrub and can reach 3-4 meters in height, while the specimens on the market today are mostly hybrids of suitable size for domestic use. The scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, which is the most beautiful of the euphorbias. The Aztecs used it in ritual celebrations as a symbol of purity, and in such circumstances the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the sixteenth century knew it. But we must wait until the nineteenth century for the poinsettia to cross the borders of its homeland, brought to the United States by ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett, who made it known and classified, and from which the name Poinsettia derives, with which it is also known, especially in English-speaking countries.

Legends about the origin, the association with Christmas and other curiosities

In Mexico, his homeland, the poinsettia is attributed the meaning of love for others and trust, hope and purity. There are several legends related to the birth of this plant. According to one of these, the poinsettia owes its deep red leaves to the fact that God, seeing it scarcely appreciated by men, wanted to reward it by dyeing the leaves with his own blood and thus transforming it into a symbol of love and rebirth. tells the moving story of Lola, a very poor little girl who on Christmas Eve, having nothing to offer, was desperate not knowing how to show her devotion, when suddenly a voice, accompanied by an intense glow, told her to gather some grass: this, placed on the altar, it turned into a beautiful plant with bright red stars instead of flowers. For this reason in Mexico the poinsettia is called Flower of the Holy Night, Flor de la Noche Buena.In France it is called a love star and is also given on Mother’s Day, in Peru and Chile it is called the crown of the Andes and leaf fiery.

The flowering of the poinsettia, its cultivation needs

Contrary to what we are led to think, what appear to be the large red petals of the poinsettia flower are actually bracts, modified leaves that crown the real flower which, as in all Euphorbiacee, is called cyathium. It is formed by a group of male flowers, reduced to stamens, small and yellow-green around a female flower. The leaves are up to 15 cm long, while the full inflorescence can measure 30 cm. It is a non-rustic plant with a demanding cultivation, it needs a constant temperature between 16 and 22 ° C, therefore in warm temperate areas it can be grown outside; it can live even at lower temperatures but cannot bear frost. It is a photoperiod plant as its life cycle is influenced by the amount of light it receives, the flowering of the poinsettia occurs in the winter period, when the hours of light are shorter. In this period it should be fertilized every fifteen days with phosphorus and potassium, and watered every 2-3 days.

Bloom poinsettia: How to make flowering recur from year to year

When the flowering period of the poinsettia ends, the plant loses its red bracts and often also the other leaves, but it is not necessary to throw it away, because if it has good roots it can easily live all year round and flourish again. But it is necessary to follow some precautions. First of all, it is advisable to prune it by cutting the stems by about 10 cm, being careful in handling it, as the plant and the latex that comes out of it possess a certain toxicity. From the cut stems you can get cuttings and then new seedlings. Place it indoors or outdoors, in a bright place, but protected from direct sunlight, ventilated, but not subject to drafts. The soil must be kept slightly moist, therefore it is necessary to water only when it is almost dry. From October, in view of flowering, the plant should be placed in a place where it can spend a good part of the day in the dark, about 15 hours, or alternatively it can be covered; but for the rest of the day the position must be sunny. In this way our plant will cheer us up again with its characteristic flowering.

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