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Poinsettia- A True Christmas Star

So the carols are on, the decorations and tinsel are adorning the big shopping centres; put simply, the countdown is ON. We all know Christmas is on it’s way, and we all know that before you know it, it will be upon us. So while you are decorating your home, if you find you want to bring some of the outdoors inside, there are few plants that can give you that Christmas feeling as well, or as easily as the Poinsettia.

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The gorgeous plant, which is also known as “Christmas Star” with it’s brightly coloured star like display, is indigenous to Mexico and flowers throughout the Christmas period in the Northern Hemisphere; the Winter months. Here, it naturally flowers throughout the colder months as well, and you will notice the bright red, white, lemon, marbled and stunning pink flowers in many gardens throughout June- August. Poinsettias are forced to flower for Christmas here too by growing them in a controlled environment. Like many Winter and Autumn blooming plants, when the night temperatures start to drop, the days become shorter and the plants have access to less light, the plant begins to bloom. These factors are simulated in order to produce flowering poinsettias all year round.

The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) belongs to a family of plants that produces a white sticky sap when the plant is cut or broken. This sap is poisonous and can cause allergic reactions to sensitive skin. All plants in the Euphorbia family produce this sap, so you must be mindful when pruning your plant and remember to ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS.

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side. Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the actual flowers; they're quite different. This macro shot shows multiple pseudanthia surrounded by a sea of red bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower). The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it. Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers, and you can even see some of the pollen grains. Also emerging from each involucre you can see a number of dark-purple structures supported by short stalks (that are about a tenth of the height of the filaments; I'm not sure what these are - they may be stigmas and styles, but I doubt it). The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar to attract pollinators.
Image by Marc Perkins of actual flower. Many people confuse the coloured bracts as the flower of the Poinsettia plant.

Certainly the bright red Poinsettia is the most common and popular variety at Christmas time, however there are many more varieties today thanks to modern cultivation. The red star shaped ‘flower’ is not actually part of the flower at all; the flowers are the white/yellow insignificant clusters in the centre. These coloured ‘bracts’ are simply modified leaves. Knowing that after giving a Poinsettia it is likely to die back and re-flower during Winter, you can choose other coloured varieties to plant throughout your garden to add the desired colour, or give as gifts. Poinsettias make fabulous gifts as they are long lasting, and are available ina variety of sizes so they can fit almost any budget.

New varieties are constantly being created and experiemtned with. Currently, other varieties include, but are not limited to;

Euphorbia ‘Cortex White’ – Large creamy white bracts

Euphorbia ‘Silver Star Red’- Variegated cream and green leaves.

Euphorbia ‘Cortex Candy’ – Pale apricot blushed bracts

Euphorbia‘Cortex Pink’ – Velvet textured pale pink bracts

Euphorbia‘Cortex Lemon Snow’- Pale yellow bracts

Euphorbia ‘Galaxy’ has intense velvety red bracts.

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Poinsettias can grow right throughout NSW and QLD, in some cases as far as Cairns, throughout parts of South Australia and even in Northern coastal areas of Western Australia. The do not grow well in frost prone areas. Poinsettias are often left to their own devices, and as a result many specimens you see have grown tall and spindley. The way to get around this is to give the plant a hard prune after it has finished flowering and watch it re-shoot, become dense and flourish again when it becomes cold.

Keep you eye out over the coming weeks on our Christmas gift range but also our offerings in store.

Fwf x

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