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The many faces of Poinsettia


Plant experts at Stars for Europe tell us about the poinsettia varieities we’re missing out on.

Delicate furled edges, ripples, rounded pom poms and scrunched velvet textures, in spectrums of colour from antique peach to deep maroon, cinammon hues, barbie pink, yellow, ombre, stripes and spatters. Few are aware of the poinsettia’s many changing faces, as over 80 per cent of the UK’s plants are standard red, but science and horticulture has taken a leap over the last century and we’re now offered a spectacular range of festive favourites, a million miles from those growing wild in the Mexican highlands.

These days the poinsettia, a Christmas classic since the 1950‘s, is often maligned as the season’s tacky supermarket add-on. Pop one in the trolley as you’re buying the brussels and embrace a
little easy festivity. What’s forgotten is the plant’s versatile nature, its now extremely wide variety of colours, shapes and textures, and its rich history; it grew wild in Central America as bushes reaching up to five metres before it was symbolised by the Aztecs and sold on US soil for the first time on Hollywood Boulevard.

German plant breeders were the first to succeed in cultivating short-stemmed, compact potted varieties that could withstand European temperatures. Since then we’ve seen the collection take off, featuring over 150 varieties with names such as Autumn Leaves, Christmas Aurora, Christmas Beauty Nostalgia, Christmas Feelings Glitter, Ice Punch, Maxima, Mira White, Premium Ice Crystal, Premium Picasso, Primero Glitter, Princettia, Sigma and Titan.

 

 

Varieties differ in colour, growth and leaf shape; foliage can be pointed, jagged or furled, appearing like oak leaves or wrinkled like scrunchies. Availble in all sizes from miniatures at just a few centimetres tall to regular potted sizes and bushy shrubs, through to small trees with trunks of up to a metre. Plus these modern cultivars are considerably tougher and desensitised, so they don’t expect their ancestor’s Mexican climate.

Getting your hands on one of these poinsettia rarities isn’t as hard as you might think. Ask your local florist or garden centre and they should either stock them already or be able to source for you. At the beginning of poinsettia season, from the end of October to the start of November, head to a plant nursery to admire them en masse, as this time of year sees the greenhouses fill with Christmas colour. Just remember that by December rarer shades and special growth types are harder to come by.

 

Poinsettia care guide fast facts

- From November, poinsettias are available in stores everywhere.

- Dense foliage and yellow-green budding flowers in-between the coloured bracts are a sure sign of quality.

- Protect your poinsettia from the wind and transport it quickly to its warm new home.

- Keep it in a bright, warm spot (around 20° C). It can be close to a radiator, but not in direct sunlight or near draughts – so keep away from open doors, windows and fireplaces.

- Don’t overwater it by leaving a pool of water in the bottom of the pot it’s sitting in. Only water when the soil is almost completely dry.

- To use poinsettia leaves as fresh flowers in a vase, cut the bracts, dip the cut end in boiling water for 20 seconds, then immediately in cold water, and you’re ready to arrange.



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