10 Fascinating Facts About Poinsettias

It is interesting to note that poinsettias were named after the first US Minister of Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett.

The real Christmas symbol in North America is not the Christmas wreaths, mistletoe, or Christmas trees, but the poinsettias!

This stunning plant has been adorning our homes during Christmas for a long time, but not many people know its origin. It’s not even used in Europe!

Keep reading to find out more about the history and origins of this unique Christmas symbol in North America.

Poinsettias originally hail from Mexico and Central America.

Poinsettias thrive in tropical dry forests and were found in a vast region of North and Central America, from Mexico to Guatemala’s south.

Today, they are mostly seen on the Pacific Coast in canyons that are hard to access.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that the habitats that are more accessible for them to grow in are no longer suitable due to widespread deforestation.

The Aztecs used poinsettias.

In Nahuatl, the Aztec language, they were known as Cuetlaxochitl, which meant “the flower that grows in residues or soil.”

To the Aztecs, poinsettias served multiple purposes; they used the red-colored leaves to make a vibrant dye, and the milky sap from the plant to reduce fever.

Poinsettias were named after the first US Minister of Mexico.

Although poinsettias had a few names in Mexico, they were unknown in the United States until Joel Roberts Poinsett sent some samples to his greenhouses in South Carolina.

Poinsett is most famously known for cultivating this beautiful yet demanding plant, despite holding several notable titles and roles over the years.

When he shared specimens of a poinsettia with leading botanists worldwide, they couldn’t help but name it after him.

For a long time, poinsettias were believed to be highly toxic.

Poinsettias were not thought about until 1919 when an urban legend began circulating. According to the myth, a two-year-old was fatally poisoned after eating a single poinsettia leaf.

It was later included in a book on Hawaii’s poisonous plants in 1944, which is absurd considering it’s not even from Hawaii.

Despite this absurdity, the FDA published in 1970 that a single leaf could be fatal for children.

However, this was later debunked thanks to proper tests conducted in the 90s that confirmed the plant was relatively harmless.

Poinsettias can grow much larger than you expect!

Poinsettias are rarely seen growing in the wild, at least in the United States. Most people see poinsettias as potted plants, and since they are almost exclusively sold as such a small plant, it’s understandable!

When grown in the right conditions, however, poinsettias can grow up to 13 feet (4 m) tall, resembling a shrub or a small tree!

The most colorful parts of poinsettias are not its flowers.

The highly contrasting parts of the plant are actually a type of leaf called a bract.

The flowers themselves are small, yellow, and found in the middle of the colorful bracts.

Although red bracts are the most common, poinsettias are available in more than a hundred different colors, including pink, white, and burgundy.

A Mexican folktale is responsible for the association of poinsettias with Christmas.

The story tells of a young girl named Pepita who didn’t have any money to buy flowers or gifts for the Christmas Eve service celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

She collected a bouquet of weeds to avoid showing up empty-handed and brought them along.

When she placed the weeds at the nativity scene, they miraculously sprouted beautiful red flowers and became poinsettias.

More than 70 million poinsettias are sold every Christmas in the US.

Most of these sales occur within six weeks of Christmas Day, generating around $250 million for the US economy.

Despite being popular for only a short period, poinsettias are the most commonly sold flower in both the US and Canada.

One company in the US grows 70% of all poinsettias.

Prior to the 1990s, Paul Ecke Ranch had an even larger market share because they knew a secret technique for creating bushier and denser poinsettias.

A university student discovered the method and published it, allowing companies worldwide to produce prettier poinsettias.

Despite this setback, Paul Ecke Ranch still grows 50% of the world’s poinsettias.

National Poinsettia Day is observed on December 12.

The day was established to honor Joel Roberts Poinsett, who died on December 12, 1851.

As the person responsible for introducing poinsettias to the US, it is only appropriate to celebrate National Poinsettia Day on this date.

Buying a Christmas poinsettia is a wonderful way to pay tribute to Poinsett.

The poinsettia has an intriguing history for such a simple little plant!

The only question that remains is whether you will opt for a traditional red poinsettia this Christmas or try something new – there are so many options available nowadays!


1. What is the origin of the name “poinsettia”?

The name “poinsettia” comes from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first Ambassador from the United States to Mexico. It was in Mexico that Poinsett first saw the plant, which was later named after him. In Mexico, the poinsettia is known as “La Flor de la Nochebuena” (Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve).

2. Are poinsettias poisonous to humans?

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not highly toxic to humans. They can cause some mild discomfort if ingested, such as nausea or vomiting, but they are not deadly. However, it is still important to keep them out of reach of small children and pets.

3. How long do poinsettias typically bloom?

Poinsettias are known for their bright red and green foliage, which typically blooms in the winter months around Christmas time. With proper care, poinsettias can last for several weeks or even months. In fact, some poinsettias are known to bloom for up to six months!

4. What are some other colors of poinsettias?

While red is the most popular color for poinsettias, they can also be found in other colors such as white, pink, and even orange. In recent years, breeders have also developed poinsettias with speckled or marbled patterns, as well as multi-colored blooms.

5. How can I care for my poinsettia to make it last longer?

To keep your poinsettia looking its best, place it in a spot with bright, indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Avoid placing it near drafty windows or heat sources. You can also extend the life of your poinsettia by applying a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.

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