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Mexico Native is Most Popular Holiday Plant


It’s sometimes called “Lobster Flower” or “Flame Leaf Flower” – but is perhaps best known as the Poinsettia. And it’s a very popular plant during the holiday season. KUNC gardener Tom Throgmorton has more…

Aztec kings brought caravans of the colorful plants to their capital because the plant wouldn’t grow at the cool, high elevation.  In their native Mexico they’re called Flores de la Noche Buena

In the 1820’s, the U. S. ambassador to Mexico traded American elm cuttings for cuttings of this euphorbia.  It’s also known as Lobster Flower and Flame Leaf Flower.  This tall shrub or small tree was brought from Mexico by Ambassador Joel Poinsett.  He never thought it would become our most popular holiday flower. 

Today over 60 million poinsettias are sold in the six week holiday season.  Poinsettias are a $200 million-plus industry.  Since the early 1900s the industry has been led by the Ecke family of California.  They grow 80 percent of the poinsettias sold in the United States.  The Eckes have bred and introduced whole groups of poinsettia like the Jester, Freedom and Punch Families. 

Poinsettias should be full plants with large bracts.  Bracts are the colored leaves or petals we think of as the Poinsettia flowers.  As the bracts color they tend to turn a dark, almost black shade of green.  Pick plants that are fully colored without a dark outside margin.  Growers try to grow an even plant - -half leaves and half colored bracts.

Most consumers seem to prefer traditional Poinsettias.  Vivid reds with dark green contrasting leaves are still the favorite. Distinct whites, marbles and pinks come in second.  And novelty Poinsettias are rated third. 

The saving grace is that for every personal preference there’s a cultivar of Poinsettia.  Some growers will have twenty or more types of Poinsettias to choose from.  Some of the new varieties include:

The first true purple poinsettia, ‘Plum Pudding’.  Its bracts turn a burgundy-wine color.

  • `Monet’ has large white outer bracts and rosy-pink inner bracts.
  • `Strawberries and Cream’ is another bicolor.  It has pink bracts with off white edges. 
  • `Carousel Pink’ is pink... but the bracts have a twist to them.  The twisted edge is supposed to give a feeling of movement, like a carousel.

These varieties are a lot different than the original native poinsettias in Mexico.

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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