Sprekelia formosissima

The Jacobean Lily is the only species in the genus Sprekelia; it was formerly assigned to the genus Amaryllis. It is native to Mexico and Guatemala; the bulbs were brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. It has an underground bulb with blood-red stripes. The leaves appear at the same time as or slightly later than the flowers. They are up to 40 cm (16 in) long and only 2 cm ( ¾ in) wide. The flowers are borne singly at the end of a long, reddish stem. They are a dark velvety red, measure 8-10 cm (3-4 in) and the petals spread out in a single plane.

It is a semi-desert plant and therefore requires full sun during the growing period. As soon as the plants die back in autumn, lift the bulbs. Clean and store them in a warm, dry place. In March or early April, when the bulbs begin growth, plant them in a nourishing compost with a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot. Propagate by means of the bulb offsets.

Euphorbia pulcherrima (syn. Poinsettia pulcherrima) The Poinsettia is native to Mexico where it may reach a height of 3 m (10 ft). This spurge, the popular Poinsettia, is also called the Christmas Star, for the large red bracts spread out like stars beneath the minute flowers. (The inflorescence is called a cyathium.) Horticulturalists have developed numerous cultivars with different coloured bracts. These may be brilliant or dark red – ‘Adventstern von Werder’ – white – ‘White Wonder’, or greenish white – ‘White Ecke’. The cultivar ‘Plenissima’ with a greater number of bracts is very striking. Even when the plant is not in flower its leaves, irregularly lobed and pale green, are a decorative feature.

During the flowering period in winter, it requires full sun and a temperature above 15°C (59° F). Water with tepid water and feed regularly. After the flowers have faded, cut the plant back and give a period of rest in a cool room without watering. Repot and start watering and feeding again in March. Propagate by tip cuttings. Place them in warm water for about one hour after they are taken to check the flow of a milky fluid (lactiferous ducts are a characteristic trait of all spurges). Poinsettia is also used as a cut flower.

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