Interesting Facts About Poinsettias-The Christmas Plant

By Jan Cashman • Posted on March, 4th 2019

  1. From the 17th Century, Franciscan friars in Mexico have used poinsettias in Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaves symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and the red color the sacrificial blood of Jesus.
  2. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are a member of the spurge family.
  3. They are indigenous to Mexico. The first US ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, gave them their common name and introduced them to the United States in 1825.
  4. In tropical climates, they grow as a perennial shrub– 10 to 15 feet tall.
  5. Poinsettias cannot survive freezing temperatures. They are a houseplant in temperate and colder climates.
  6. The colored bracts (red, pink, white or marbled) are not flower petals but actually leaves. The yellow centers are their flowers.
  7. There are over 100 cultivars or varieties of poinsettias.
  8. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous.
  9. A German immigrant named Eckes living in Los Angeles started selling poinsettias in the early 1900’s. His son developed a method of reproducing them and for years the Eckes were the sole source of poinsettias in the US.

Care of your poinsettia plant…

Poinsettias will keep their best color and not lose their lower leaves if they have plenty of light. An east window is a good spot for them but avoid direct sun.

Plants will not do well if it is too hot (60 to 70 degrees is ideal).

Poinsettias wilt easily if they get too dry, so keep soil evenly moist but make sure your container has good drainage so they don’t sit in water.

Wait until after the bloom is done to fertilize.

Keeping your poinsettia from year to year…..

Lessen watering after the holidays are over and cut your plant back to about 6”. Transplant to a bigger pot if your plant is too small for its pot.

In March or April, start to water more and fertilize with a water-soluble houseplant food, weak solution.

When danger of frost is past, move your poinsettia outside, not in direct sun (an east exposure is good), and plant it in the ground or leave it in the pot.

Pinch back the tips as your plant grows to promote branching.

Move plant inside in September. You don’t want it to freeze.

In September and October, reduce watering and fertilizer.

At the end of September until about December 15, poinsettias will need 14 to 15 hours a day of total darkness and cool temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees. Once the red or colored flower bracts have developed, you may bring your poinsettia out to a lighted room and increase watering.