I have a love-hate relationship with poinsettia, that ubiquitous red and green festive pot plant – and I suspect I’m not the only one.
Come December every supermarket in the land is carpeted with their brash bracts in three handy sizes in a choice of luxury or utility pots. Poor things are force grown at the speed of light from their puny little plugs destined for the pay and display, disposable plant market.
When I was younger there was no love – just total disdain, then I saw them growing wild in the Himalayas and suddenly I could see their good side. These striking plants are really meant to grow much larger than the stunted specimens we use to decorate out homes at Christmas – the ones I saw were like small trees, their rosy bracts looking like a flock of crimson birds.
They may look perfectly comfortable growing on the hillsides of Kalimpong but these plants are native to sunny South America, so to keep them looking good there are two golden rules; keep them in a constant temperature away from draughts and don’t overwater them, let the soil begin to dry out and then water thoroughly, draining well.
Nearly 80% of all poinsettias sold at Christmas are red (no surprise there) with the remainder being pink, white, cream, orange and a range of fancy variegations. Despite my little rant I have bought a big bowlful of red ones as Christmas would not be complete without them. What colour will you choose this year?