For reasons that are not horticulturally obvious, the poinsettia has earned its place in our culture. The plant doesn’t like the weather this far north of the equator, and it shows. Soon after we’ve pushed our overstuffed selves away from the holiday dining table, the poinsettia is ready to drop those tired, crimson leaves onto the hardwood floor.
That’s OK by the buyer. It was nice and red while it lived. Americans love to overindulge and gawk at things so gaudy they have become beautiful. This is the entire business model for the city of Las Vegas.
For the holidays, we embrace countless embellishments that are entirely impractical.
• Bringing cut trees indoors
• Keeping boxes of ornaments in the garage for 11 months a year.
• Climbing slippery rooftops to attach blow-up snowmen.
• Ugly Christmas sweater parties.
• Wearing battery-operated bulbs as necklaces.
Among all this silliness, poinsettias rank at the top of the will-not-survive list.
We don’t even keep the plant around long enough to learn how to pronounce it correctly.
Native to the tropics, the only logical reason the plant is a holiday craze is because the leaves match Santa’s suit.
By the way, the plant is not “in bloom” during the holiday. What actually occurs is that the leaves turn red. This happens only after the plant has been tortured through 12-14 hours of darkness each day.
After the plants fade, we toss them into the green waste can, perhaps the same week as we offload the Christmas trees.
Now, now, you might say, a poinsettia is a plant. A skilled gardener could keep it alive and trick it into producing red leaves again.
Yes, but only through heroic efforts.
I looked it up, just to make sure I’m not just being lazy. The tricks of the plant include moving it in and out of sunlight, keeping the temperature close to its native Southern Mexico and Guatemala, and the aforementioned timed dark solitude. (There’s also watering from the bottom and other such blather).
I can’t really trust myself to keep enough gas in my car, how could I be trusted with such a lengthy checklist?
Go for the glitter
Recently my friend Samantha sent me a “gardening idea” about poinsettias that are sprayed with glitter paint. Huzzah! If someone is going to the trouble of bringing this beauty to our dinner tables, we might as well go all the way and spray it into a more dazzling display.
I’m quite certain the addition of chemicals could not be good for a living thing, but remember, the poinsettia is destined to dim. Those folks who are adding glitter to poinsettias may or may not have been the brains behind the blue flocked Christmas tree.
Glitter is a happy thing. I wish they made cinnamon in glitter form. I could sprinkle it happily on my morning oatmeal. Pizza would have more pizzazz if crushed red pepper came in glitter form.
Butter, chocolate and fake creamer — I think Americans would highly embrace glittering versions of these household items, especially in Las Vegas.
Let them live
That all being said, I much prefer when a beautiful plant has a chance for a longer life. If you’re grabbing something sweet for the table centerpiece, how about some forced bulbs in potted soil? The bulbs can be stored to force again, or you can simply put them in the ground and hope for the best.
On a bulb note
Thank you to the dear reader who dropped off some rather large bulbs at the newspaper this week. My coworker dropped them off at my house. Dear reader, if you have a chance, please drop me a note and tell me what they are. My guess is either amaryllis or naked lady (pink belladonna). Knowing what they are will help in my decisions about how best to torture them.