For anyone who grew up in the Americas, more specifically in Mexico, might well recognize the name of Flor de Nochebuena, a plant also well known as Kerstster in The Netherlands. This plant has a long and interesting history. Who would have thought that the charming plant, very popular during the winter holiday season, was once used as a fever remedy!

The plant is native to Mexico and Central America, flourishing for centuries in Taxco de Alarcon, a picturesque town in Southern Mexico. During the Aztecs heyday, the plant was known as Cuetlaxochitl and was used for dying textiles, cosmetics, and the milky white liquid, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

It was not until the son of a French physician (whose love was botany), when the plant began an amazing journey. Poinsett lived in Mexico when his father was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in 1825. The brilliant red blooms he saw in the plant captivated him.

Since then, the plant has been cultivated in different regions in North America, Europe and the world. Euphorbia pulcherrima (literally meaning “the most beautiful Euphorbia”) is its botanical name. Though later on for obvious reasons, became widely known as Poinsettia in North America.

Whatever you call it, Nochebuena, Kerstster, Cuetlaxochitl, Euphorbia pulcherrima or Poinsettia, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the plant is certainly a beautiful one and if you happen to receive or give one as a gift, here are some useful tips to keep its beautiful foliage from drying up. “Having two green thumbs, you decide to give it a shot” as per Teresa Kendrick. Here’s how:

Cut back the plant to half its size and keep it cooler, about 12°C. After sometime, new shoots will come out. Then repot and grow warmer. Bring it outside when possible in the summer. Feed once every two weeks with a fertilizer that has micronutrients. To get the plant to bloom a second time, it will need absolute darkness for 14 hours a day, for two months. If you do not give them darkness, the plants will bloom later than Christmas, sometime in the spring.

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