The Christmas Flower, a close relative of the Poinsettia, blooms in time for the season of good tidings

It’s that time of year when the nip in the air reminds one of the white small leaf Poinsettia, which, apparently in Florida, is called the little Christmas Flower. All across the city, shrubs of the Euphorbia leucocephala are beginning to bloom and will stay strikingly in bloom, well through December into the Christmas season.

We connect the bright red and the yellow large leaved Poinsettia with celebrating Christmas, but the Christmas Flower or Snow Flake sets the tone of the season. Prakash Alvares, a landscape architect says, “The Euphorbia leucocephala is easy to maintain and grows well in Bangalore. Other plants can be grown below its beautiful canopy and its roots are not very dense and grow straight down. One can propagate them from thick quarter-inch stems, but all nurseries across the city stock them as well.”

The shrub originated in Central America but like many exotics, it is quite happy to bloom and grow in Bangalore.

The flowers are very tiny and pristine white and the dense clusters of blooms make the whole plant look spectacular during the season, as there is no green at all while it’s in flower.

Closely related to the regular poinsettia, the Christmas Flower has a delicate perfume, if you stand close enough to it.

“The flowers are actually very tiny and you have to get very close to see them. What makes the bloom so spectacular are the coloured, leaf-like bracts that surround the flower. The buds appear at the end of the branches, with multiple flowers in a group. This makes it bloom densely, covering the entire plant in white. You must trim back the plant after the blooming period so that it thickens and gives out several more branches. Each branch that you trim will create more new branches, so when the next November comes round, the shrub will have a very dense crown covered with flowers,” advises Prakash.

Jacqueline Colaco, the honorary treasurer of the Association of People With Disablilty, Bangalore says, “You can get young plants of the Christmas Flower at all the APD nurseries across Bangalore. (www.apd-india.org). The nursery employs young men and women with disability, who hail from underprivileged rural backgrounds and during this season the nursery is full of all varieties of Poinsettia, which are sold at very reasonable prices.”

“I had a shrub which stopped blooming when we built flats in the place of our bungalow. One quirk of these plants is that they are sensitive to light and they require a long period of darkness to initiate a bloom. Don’t plant it near a street or porch light because, if light falls on it at night, it will just continue its normal growth pattern, and will never bloom,” warns Salma Mashood who lives off Infantry Road.

Go get yourself a plant and enjoy it through the season. Closely related to poinsettia, it is a classic low maintenance plant that would suit the average Bangalore garden.

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