Poinsettia - the jolly Christmas plant bringing a splash of festive colour

The poinsettia is a popular festive flower.
The poinsettia is a popular festive flower.
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At this time of year, with the hours of daylight diminishing and minds focused on the festive period that will soon be upon us, the temptation is to hunker down and enjoy the warm glow of a fireside with friends and family.

There is little, you might think, to get gardeners excited right now. December is a month of dull, muted colours, with the vibrancy of spring still months away. And yet that isn’t quite the full picture as this photograph of Poinsettia grower Chris Edge pictured amongst the flowers at Darfoulds Nursery, near Worksop, goes to show.

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Even if you didn’t know Christmas was on its way, just one glimpse inside a garden centre would leave little doubt. You would be seeing red because of all the plants which appear in December, the poinsettia has probably come to symbolise the festive season – it’s the indoor equivalent of the holly and it’s done its best to usurp the place of cyclamen and hyacinths as ‘the Christmas flower’.

Poinsettias are cheery plants and bring a welcome splash of colour that would surely raise a smile from Santa himself.

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And yet it’s not always been a smooth story for this winter favourite. Years ago, it was tall and leggy and lived in relative obscurity; today, it is compact, bright and easy to accommodate.

Without man’s help, Euphorbia pulcherrima (to give it its Botanical name) would still be soaking up the sun many thousands of miles away from windy shores.

It’s only because we have tinkered with its make-up that it now reigns supreme as the most popular living Christmas present.

All these euphorbias want is a reasonable temperature (between 55-60F), plenty of light (not direct sun), water, an occasional misting of the leaves, and a little food when they are at their peak.

It isn’t really a flowering plant either – those great, red flowers are, in fact, nothing more than glorified leaves.

But that doesn’t put off millions of people who every year buy one, either for their own home or as a present – give a plant and you have shown you care.

Photograph by Simon Hulme

Technical details: Nikon D3s camera, 35mm lens, exposure of 1/200th sec @ f/11, ISO 200.