December 12th marks National Poinsettia Day in the U.S., by order of a House of Representatives Resolution in 2002. The holiday occurs on the anniversary of the death of Joel Poinsett, who brought the cheery plant to the United States from Mexico in the 1800s. Today, the Smithsonian Gardens cultivates over 3,000 of the plants at their facility in Maryland to decorate SI buildings on the Mall and surrounding area. We were able to take a sneak peek of the plants (which took up four greenhouses!) before they were deployed for holiday decorating. They made quite a jolly sea of red and green.
Interested in cultivating your own poinsettia collection? The all-purpose book for those growing and propagating poinsettias is the The Poinsettia Manual which was published in 1990 in its third edition by Paul Ecke Poinsettias. This manual provides everything a grower needs to know about producing and selling poinsettias. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries own a copy of both the 2nd and 3rd editions. In 2004, this publication was updated and is now called the Ecke Poinsettia Manual. It is published by Ball Publishing Company. The Paul Ecke Ranch, in Encinitas, California, is the world’s largest poinsettia breeder.
To learn more about poinsettias in general, take a look at SI Gardens' Poinsettia Fact Sheet. And be sure to read more about SI Gardens, their poinsettias and the interesting link between the Smithsonian and Joel Poinsett in this Around the Mall blog post.
— Erin Rushing and Robin Everly, with thanks to SI Gardens staff Vickie Dibella and Monty Holmes.