The Christmas flower

GOING BY the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima, Poinsettia is truly a floral gift during the Christmas season. This extraordinary plant is colourful, putting forth leafy bracts in bright shades — red, pink and creamy white, though the flowers themselves are quite insignificant. The leaves are deep green, sharply scalloped and perfectly veined.

Growing easily to a height of about five feet, the plant looks spectacular whether amid a cluster in a corner of the garden or raised in a pot. Moderate watering and warm sun bring out a superb annual show of colour in winter and hence, the name Christmas flower.

Poisonous latex fills the stems and cuttings have to be carefully taken. An organic mix of dry rotted leaves is sufficient for the plant to flourish. Poinsettia is fairly trouble free, except that one needs to wait patiently for nine months to see it bloom.

Once in bloom, poinsettia is a show stealer in a garden with traditional varieties. The deep red curly bracted varieties, as well as new hybrids do better in a temperate climate.