Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cultural History of the Poinsettia

Submitted by Linda Grimwade Philadelphia Master Gardener 

Euphorbia pulcherrima    

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl, residue, and xochitl, flower) meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil." The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "Noche Buena", meaning Christmas Eve. In Spain it is known as "Flor de Pascua", meaning "Easter flower". In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as "Crown of the Andes".
The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias.  From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.  The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.
Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations[1] in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
Big Spring, Texas is well known for its poinsettias as the "lighted poinsettia capital". When the Comanche Trail Festival of Lights first began the dam at the big spring held four huge poinsettias made of rebar welded together in the shape of a poinsettia flower. Each flower was made up of 5 leaves. The leaves were decorated with red Christmas lights. The four poinsettia flowers were an awesome sight to see entering Big Spring from the south. Each year more flowers were added to the dam and inside the park until Comanche Trail Park has by 2006 added seven poinsettias, making a total of eleven lighted flowers on the dam and countless flowers inside the park, making Comanche Trail Park the Christmas Poinsettia capital. (wikipedia)

A column on poinsettia history.

Poinsettia the all American Christmas Flower was introduced by John Bartram in 1829.
Today the poinsettia comes in assorted varieties of color and size. The favorite being the traditional red.

Read the history of this beautiful flower by following this link.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Foricng Amarylis to rebloom

 Did You Know That You Can Get Your Forced Amaryllis to Bloom Again.

Did you receive an Amaryllis as a gift last year? You probably followed the instructions your bulb came with, and now it’s done blooming. Well, you can get it to bloom again if you follow the directions below.
Here’s how:
            1. When the flowers fade, don’t let them form seed pods. Cut each flower off at the base as they fade, leaving the stem and leaves. They help the bulb collect and store nutrients, giving it the strength it will need to bloom again.
            2. Keep the plant in a bright indoor spot, and keep on watering when the soil is dry.
            3. Fertilize your amaryllis once a month with half-strength liquid fertilizer.
            4. If the leaves start to die, that’s okay. Just remove the dead leaves and start withholding water and fertilizer. Your plant is going dormant, not dying. Everything is okay!
            5. When spring comes, and there is absolutely no danger of frost, move the amaryllis outside, in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade.
            6. When new leaves start appearing, add some new soil to the top of pot, but don’t totally cover the bulb. Resume watering and fertilizing like before.
            7. To force for Christmas, stop watering in mid September. Bring the bulb in and put it in a dark cool dry place to rest. 
            8. In 6 to 8 weeks remove the dead leaves and start watering again. Repot and move to a warmer spot with more light. Continue watering and follow the original instructions for growing your flower.