Poinsettia is native
Central America and was brought to the United States for cultivation in
1828 by Joel Poinsett. In
their native environments,
these plants reach 15 feet tall by about the same
Named after Poinsett, its chief promoter, the
plant was commonly known as "poinsettia" by 1836.
Poinsett died on Deccember
12, 1851, in the heart of his plant’s blooming
While its native coloring is red coloring, the poinsettia has
subsequently evolved into many different colors and varieties. It now
blooms in colors of brilliant crimson, red, pink, white, salmon,
orange, yellow, purple and blue. Some are the result of color additives
that give the blooms their brilliant colors; others are created through
hybridization. They also come in dual shades of pink and white, red
with white speckles, and in double shades of pink.
Some poinsettia have rounded petals, others
have jagged ones and some varieties even contain a double-petal bloom
like the ‘winter rose’ variety.
In Central America, poinsettia are said to have originated
with a couple of poor native children who wanted to
present a gift to the Christ child at the Christmas Eve services. Sad
that they could not bring riches to him, they gathered some weeds along
the roadside on their way to the church to present at the foot
of the nativity scene. They remembered the saying
“that even the most humble of gifts, if given in love, will
be accepted in his eyes.”
After the children laid the bouquet of weeds down by the nativity, the
plant suddenly burst into blooms of brilliant red and all who had
witnessed it swore they had seen a Christmas miracle. From
that day on, the bright red flowers of the poinsettia have been known
as the Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloom each year during the
Poinsettias prefer a bright, diffused light while in bloom. The best
location foir them in a home is away from drafts, temperature extremes
of hot and cold, and direct sunlight.
These are tropical plants, so keep them indoors if the temperatures are
going to be under 60-70 degrees. A cold poinsettia will turn yellow and
drop its leaves.
Poinsettias do not like to be
fertilized while in bloom, but require it afterward when they resume
their vegetative growth period.
Water moderately. Poinsettias will drown or get sick if they get too
much water. Only when the soil feels dry should a poinsettia be watered.
After the holidays, when the bracts start to drop, the plant will go
into a dormant stage for about a month before starting new growth. When
the new growth begins, place the plant in a well-lit location and
lightly feed it with a general purpose fertilizer.
When outside temperatures rise above 50 degrees, with lows not
much colder, poinsettia plants can be placed in pots or planted outside
to continue growing for best growth.
By the time autumn arrives, the poinsettia should
have regained its lush, bushy character.
Getting a poinsettia to bloom again is difficult. The plant needs a
very controlled environment in order to set flowers. One of the key
elements for re-blooming is complete darkness for 12 to 16
hours a day starting in late September or early October. Any deviation
from this can alter the setting of flowers on the plants. Some people
set the plant in a dark closet each night to make sure it does not get
any artificial light from within the room or outside the windows.
Once the color bracts start to form and the flowers have set (usually
by mid-November if you have done it correctly) you can move them out
into a bright location to enjoy for another season.
One thing to remember with the re-blooming poinsettia is that the
flowers will be half the size of the original flowers when bought but
One of the most common misconceptions of the poinsettia plant is that
it is poisonous to people or pets. Scientists have repeatedly proven
this incorrect. A
50-pound child would have to consume more than 500 poinsettia bracts to
have any ill effects, and the resulting symptoms would be akin to an
allergy or irritation.
Similarly, a pet that eats poinsettia leaves will probably have an
upset stomach and vomit them back up, but will suffer no other toxic
Rather than being poisonous, the poinsettia is actually one of the most
helpful houseplants in removing pollutants from the air.
The colored "bracts" that most people consider
to be poinsettia
flowers are actually leaves. The flowers are the tiny yellowish green
buttons at the center of each set of bracts.