Love or loathe those glorified festive leaves...

Have your say

Love it or loathe it, there is no escaping the poinsettia. Of all the plants which appear in December, the poinsettia has probably come to symbolise Christmas – it’s the indoor equivalent of the holly and it’s done its best to usurp the place of cyclamen and hyacinths as the festive flower.

Years ago, Euphorbia pulcherrima was tall and leggy and lived in relative obscurity; today, it is compact, bright and easy to accommodate.

But it’s not really a flowering plant – 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 another, either for their own home or as a present for that person who always proves difficult to please. Give a plant and you have shown you care. It’s then up to the recipient to look after it.

And while looking after a poinsettia should be relatively straight forward, many people end up with plants which would be happier on the compost heap. All these specially-produced euphorbias want is a reasonable temperature (between 55-60F), plenty of light (but not direct sun), water, an occasional misting of their leaves, and perhaps a little food when they are at their peak.

Over-water and the leaves will wilt; under-water and the leaves will wilt and turn dry; dry air will also turn leaves brown and encourage red spider mites to take up residence; and leaving a plant behind the curtains on a cold night can also have a devastating effect.

There’s not a lot of point in trying to keep a poinsettia from one year to the next, as they cost from as little as £2.50, although that doesn’t seem to stop people from trying.