A survey of 1094 people in 16 European countries conducted last December by Stars for Europe (which, yes, represents the interests of poinsettia growers across the continent) found that poinsettias came third as a symbol of Christmas, just behind Christmas trees and candles. Mind you, what they seem to have done is lumped "stars and the star-shaped poinsettia" together as a category, so I can't help feeling that the plant might have been clinging to the coat-tails of the celestial body, if you see what I mean.
However, poinsettias, first bred commercially in the USA in the 1950s, are here to stay for Christmas, and I must admit I rather like them.
Rutger's If Plants Could Talk website has a video in which Dr George Wulster looks at different cultivars (Plum Pudding, anyone?) and also gives tips on poinsettia care from the moment you buy it - take a large bag with you to protect it from the cold. Among other tips are that you only need to water when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.
It also gives what I think is the clearest explanation of what is good, indirect light - when you can see the shadow of your hand on the surface where the pot will stand (without the sun directly on it, obviously).
- Never buy poinsettia from an outside display. They hate the cold and are unlikely to last.
- Look for plants where the small, greenish-yellow blooms between the coloured hypsophylls (bracts) are closed or budding as this will tell if the plant is fresh.
- Do not buy if leaves are folded or yellowing or if the bracts (the red/pink/ivory petals) are falling off – this is a sign of an old or ill plant.
- Check the moisture of the soil. It shouldn’t be too dry or wet, just slightly damp.
- Poinsettias thrive in a light, warm place at around 20 degree Celsius, and whilst being near a radiator is OK, avoid sunlight or draughts.
If you're worried that poinsettias are poisonous, especially to cats, then the video puts you right, or you can read my post from last year, Is Poinsettia Poisonous?
And, looking ahead, don't forget my post on Preserving the Poinsettia. Not something that Stars for Europe says much about, but then they wouldn't, would they?