Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Cactus or Poinsettias?

First introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first Ambassador from the United States to Mexico, the poinsettia has played a starring role in Christmas celebrations ever since.

The poinsettia's main attraction is not its flowers, but its leaves. The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center. The colored leafy parts are actually bracts or modified leaves that turn color when the plant flowers. When buying a poinsettia, make sure it has buds, preferably not yet open.

Red is the most popular color, accounting for roughly three-quarters of all sales nationwide, followed by white and pink. Poinsettias are also available in white, cream, pink, and bi-colors. There are also unusual speckled or marbled varieties with several colors blended together. New varieties are introduced yearly.

It’s a popular plant. More than 34 million are sold each year, according to the 2013 USDA Floriculture Statistics report. In economic terms, that's $144 million of poinsettias sold each holiday season, accounting for about one-quarter of the potted plants sold each year.

But from a recent poll on the Costa Farms’ Facebook page, it seems the traditional poinsettia has some stiff competition. More than three times the number of respondents picked the Christmas cactus as their favorite holiday plant.


“Christmas cactus is one of the most colorful flowering houseplants,” says Justin Hancock, garden expert at Costa Farms, the largest grower of indoor plants in North America.

This easy-care grower bursts into bloom when the days get short, putting on a fabulous show during the holiday season. Christmas cactus come in a wide variety of colors, including pink, red, scarlet, orange, gold, cream and white — as well as bicolors where an individual flower shows multiple shades at the same time.

This flowering houseplant is a cinch to grow, which has made it a popular holiday plant for generations.

In fact, a beautiful Christmas cactus has become something of an heirloom for many families, with the plant being passed down through the ages.

When in bloom, these plants show off their colorful blossoms like jewels at the end of their stems. When not in bloom the rest of the year, its jagged foliage gives insight to one of its other common names, the crab cactus.

Whether decorating this season with a traditional poinsettia or its cousin the Christmas cactus, living plants make the holidays come alive.

For care information and more on holiday houseplants, visit Costa Farms.

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