One of the prettiest sights of the holiday season just might be a greenhouse growing range of poinsettias at their peak. Joel Poinsett, ambassador to Mexico in the 1820s, is generally credited with introducing the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) to the U.S. He had the foresight to bring specimens back to his South Carolina greenhouse. In Mexico, its native home, the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that can grow to ten feet! The beautiful red, white, pink and variegated bracts are not flowers at all, just colorful leaves. The true flowers of the poinsettia are located in the center of the bracts at the tip of each stem; they are those little tiny yellow blobs that can easily be overlooked.
Many say that the poinsettia is poisonous. Though the plant leaves and stems do ooze a milky, white sap when broken, the toxins which contain diterpene esters, vary by variety. An Ohio State University study reported that, if ingested, the plant may only cause some stomach discomfort. The sap may cause some skin irritation and you definitely don’t want to get it in your eyes. Ok. Call me a chicken, but I’m not going to test the validity of this report. It would be wise to keep them out of the reach of children and pets.
There are hundreds of different colored varieties on the market right now. If you frequent a quality garden center, they should even have the varieties noted by name. Say you’ve seen blue poinsettias in the stores? You can’t blame the sightings of blue poinsettias on that eggnog you’ve been drinking. Here’s the scoop on the behind-the-scene magic!
The grower will take one naturally grown white poinsettia, some commercial plant dye and spray until the desired color is reached. Blue, pink, burgundy, orange, yellow…. For purple, just spray the blue dye on a naturally grown red poinsettia. I learned something really neat: the dye can be used on other plants such as Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.
My Landreth seed catalog is here
As I mentioned a while back, the D. Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seed company in the U.S. (since 1784!), is in financial troubles. The company is not out of the woods yet but the sale of their 2012 catalog goes a long way to preserve its future. I ordered 4 and should have ordered more. It’s WAY more than a seed catalog – it’s U.S. agriculture history in your hand. If you haven’t ordered your catalog yet, you’d better get on the ball before they sell out. Check their website out HERE.