Poinsettia prowess: Clemson expert offers advice and a historical perspective on the popular plant
CLEMSON — It’s not the holiday season until poinsettias appear, and they quickly appear everywhere. The poinsettia, which naturally bloom in November and December in their native Mexico, is the second most popular flowering potted plant in the country, second only to orchids. That’s a statistic as dramatic as the showy plant, considering poinsettias are sold only a few weeks out of the year.
Poinsettias were first sent to the United States in 1828 by Joel Poinsett, the first minister to Mexico and a native South Carolinian. Jim Faust, an associate professor of horticulture at Clemson University, carries on the southern state’s ties to the plant. He literally co-wrote the quintessential guide to growing the plant, “Ecke Poinsettia Manual,” and he created the “Ecke Bract Meter” to help growers time the plants’ blooms and colorful leaves.
Faust shared his knowledge about poinsettias, from its history to caring for the plant, in the following videos.
How the poinsettia became the second most popular plant — from the Aztecs to prime-time TV, via South Carolina — is a story as colorful as the plant itself.
“When selecting a poinsettia to purchase, consumers should look for a full cluster of cyathia in the center of the showy red bracts,” Faust says.
Poinsettias blossomed into a popular plant in the 1970s, thanks to science and a little serendipity.
The poinsettia secret:
A backyard greenhouse in Europe and a briefcase of cash led to a monopoly on the Christmas plant.
Grafting the poinsettia look:
A bacteria called a phytoplasma has to be transferred from infected plants to non-infected plants to make poinsettias full-figured.