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Sometimes I wish we had holly or other festive berries and various evergreens growing natively in our “woods.” Yes, we have mistletoe. We have contemporary looking eucalyptus boughs, citrus, succulents and other exotics. It’s not that we lack plants to choose from, but lately, I’ve been wishing for seasons and pine trees and holly.

As I was thinking about this, I drove by a house with a plant growing as tall as the roofline and dotted with bright red flowers. And then, a little ways down the road, I noticed another, and another.

Suddenly I saw this plant growing and blooming everywhere, spreading its reedy branches up through palm trees and  bright green tropical giant elephant ear plants. The poinsettia.


Yes, you know the one, especially this kind that you buy at Home Depot! Did you ever stop to think about what would happen if you planted it once the holidays were over? Keep reading, and I’ll show you.

I spent a few more minutes driving around the nearby historic neighborhood of Loma Portal, and I found poinsettias growing in front yards all over the place. Clearly, not everyone lets them dry out and die and then throws them out! Many people plant them (especially people 40 years ago), and as they are native to nearby Mexico (I learned), they seem to thrive. I started taking pictures — just call me the front-yard-poinsettia-plant-stalker. (If I keep doing this, I better get a shorter name.)

One home owner who, I am embarrassed to say, caught me taking a picture of her plants in the front yard, told me that she had lived in the house 40 years and the poinsettias had been there before she moved in.

“What do they look like when it’s not winter?” I asked.

“Sticks,” she said.

But for now, she gets new blooms everyday ringing in the holiday with their bright and cheerful blooms.

We have the premiere propagator and grower of poinsettias for more than 100 years right here in San Diego, the Ecke Ranch. I found wonderful information and stories on their website. This history is so fascinating.

“The plant we know today as the poinsettia has a long and interesting history. The fact is that lovely plant you place in your home during the holidays was once used as a fever medicine! Native to Central America, the plant flourished in an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon. The ancient Aztecs had a name for this plant found blooming in the tropical highlands during the short days of winter: cuetlaxochitl. Not merely decorative, the Aztecs put the plant to practical use. From its bracts they extracted a purplish dye for use in textiles and cosmetics. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.”

Read the rest of the story about how the first United States Ambassador to Mexico Mr. Poinsett brought them to the United States (oh ya, and also started the Smithsonian.) Here.

Here are more photos from my drive the other morning. Please ignore my dirty windshield!

Remember, here temperate climate of San Diego instead of throwing away your poinsettias when Christmas is over, try planting them. Just plant them with or behind a fuller plant so you won’t see how ugly it is the rest of the year.

Here’s what you might get:


Or try this one:


Here are the others. I also found them growing near Poinsettia street — I could resist this photo.