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Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

~ Norman Vincent Peale ~

Poinsettia Facts and Legend

The first ambassador from the US to Mexico was Joel Poinsett. Mr. Poinsett was, besides being a politician, also a physician and a botanist. When he returned to his home in South Carolina in 1828, he took a bright red Mexican flower along with him. He cultivated them and shared them with people all over the world. Later, in 1900, an immigrant called Albert Ecke began growing the red flowers and selling them commercially in the United States.

Those are the basic facts about how the poinsettia got it's modern, English name and how it was spread throughout the world, but there is more to the story. Most of us think of Christmas when we see these tropical flowers, which is a little odd when you consider the fact that Christmas also conjures images of snow, holly boughs and roasting chestnuts over warm fires.

In Mexico the poinsettia is called La Flor de Noche Buena, or the Christmas Eve Flower. The legend associated with the flower originated sometime in Mexico in the 16th century. It was customary for villagers to leave gifts in the church for Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. A young girl named Pepita wanted to leave a special gift, but had nothing to offer because her family was very poor.

Pepita worried about her gift for days before Christmas Eve and could not think of a single thing that would be appropriate. She walked to the church disconsolately, still wishing she had a gift. As she walked along, she heard the voice of an angel say, “Pepita, any gift given out of genuine love is worthy of Baby Jesus. Do not worry. Give what you can.”

Pepita noticed there were weeds growing all along the side of the road and she began picking them to make a bouquet. She arranged the weeds and hummed a song as she arrived at the church. When Pepita put her weed bouquet down beside Baby Jesus’ crib, bright, red, beautiful flowers bloomed.

Some say that the leaf pattern of the poinsettia represents the Star of Bethlehem and that the red color represents the Blood of Christ. In any case, poinsettias are now synonymous with Christmas and used as seasonal decorations in offices, public spaces, homes and churches. Today they are available in a range of colors from creamy white to blue.

Here are a few tips for keeping your holiday poinsettia looking good:

  • Make sure your plant is getting plenty of light.
  • Do not over-water, or allow the plant to stand in water.
  • Poinsettias do not like drafts or temperature changes.
  • Mist frequently; these plants come from the tropics where it is humid.



December in the Garden:

Feed the Birds!
Start Seeds:
Keep your houseplants watered: