Poinsettias have become synonymous with Christmas and the holiday season. With flowering that is triggered by shortening days and glorious bright colors, these flowers have become a household favorite at this time of year. But did you know that this cold-weather classic is actually native to Central America?!
History: Euphorbia pulcherrima were introduced to the U.S. by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico (and namesake of the poinsettia) in 1825. The plant we currently know and love was bred from this native plant to have bigger, showier leaves, and today there are over 100 varieties beyond the traditional plants!
Types of Poinsettia: The “flowers” of poinsettias are actually leaves, known as bracts, which give the plants their vibrant colors. These are used to attract pollinators to the actual flowers (called cyathia), located in the center of the bract. Today the varieties of poinsettia are vast: there are white ones (e.g. Winter Rose White), multi-colored ones (e.g. Tricolor: red, white and pink), purple ones (e.g. Prestige Maroon), yellow ones (e.g. Lemon Drop) and pink ones (e.g. Vision of Grandeur), and those are just the bract colors! There are also a variety of different plant sizes, leaf shapes and foliage to choose from, too!
Tips for Care: Once purchased, poinsettias will often last for several weeks but be sure not to let them get too cold – they cannot withstand a frost, so be careful when transporting in colder temperatures and try keeping them in a warmer part of the house. Their preferred temperature is between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they’re from Central America they like a fair amount of sun, so we’d suggest keeping them near a sunny window so they can get the most out of the short days.
Poinsettias like to be kept hydrated and can dry out quicker when the heating’s turned up over Winter, so give them a good watering if the top soil feels dry or if the leaves start wilting. But there’s no need to flood or soak them; a good rule of thumb is watering well about once a week.
Note: This plant is mildly toxic so make sure to keep it out of reach of pets and children during those holiday gatherings!
So have fun choosing your poinsettia plant this year and add some bright color and cheer to your home for the holidays.