Poinsettia Flowers for Christmas

Poinsettia Flowers For Christmas

Displaying Poinsettia flowers for Christmas has been a tradition for many years, and for good reason! These beautiful plants make a delightful centerpiece or festive floral accent in the home for the holidays. They’re also a wonderful gift for family, friends, or the hostess of a party.

Poinsettia plants are so popular, they even have a national day named after them! 

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Poinsettia Flowers for Christmas
Poinsettias provide nectar for pollinators in their native range.

Interesting Poinsettia Facts

Poinsettias are perennial shrubs in their native Mexico and can grow up to 15 feet tall. The botanical name of this member of the spurge family is Euphorbia pulcherrima. Pulcherrima means ‘very beautiful’, an apt description.

These pretty plants come in an array of colors, from the traditional red, to shades of purple and pink, white, and splash or speckled. You can even buy them with glitter applied if you want some extra bling.

Many conservatories and greenhouses stage an extravagant holiday display of Poinsettias to draw in visitors. Poinsettia ‘trees’ are a favorite!

In their native habitat, these wildflowers are common and stunning when natural conditions cause their bracts (colored leaves often mistaken as flower petals) to change color. Wild Poinsettias provide nectar for butterflies and bees and grow like, well, weeds! 

Poinsettia Flowers for Christmas
Vintage Poinsettias image is available from The Graphics Fairy.

A Brief History of Poinsettias

Poinsettias were well known to the Ancient Aztecs. They used the milky sap medicinally to control fevers and the red bracts for dying their clothing and cosmetics.

In the 1820s Joel Robert Poinsett served as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. His interest in botany led him on walks to identify and collect ‘new’ plant species. Poinsett found a large attractive shrub with red leaves growing on a roadside and took cuttings to bring home to South Carolina.

The exotic plant grew in popularity over the years and was renamed in honor of the man who introduced it to the United States, from the name Poinsett to Poinsettia. Because of this, Poinsettia is capitalized.

Poinsettia Flowers for Christmas

Instructions for Poinsettia Care

The Poinsettia plant hails from temperate climates and is not a cold tolerant plant. Wrap with several layers of paper before bringing it home in cold weather. Bring your new Poinsettia home promptly and avoid leaving in a cold car as you run errands. This protects the delicate plant from freezing. 

Poinsettias like 6 hours of bright, indirect light each day and should be kept out of cold drafts or heat blowing from a register. Temperatures in the 60 – 70 Fahrenheit range are ideal during the day, with slightly cooler temps overnight. Keep Poinsettias evenly moist, but do not allow to sit in water. Poke two or three holes in the foil wrapping and set in a saucer or decorative container to catch runoff and protect your table.

After The Holidays End…

For those who would like to keep their Poinsettia plants after the holidays are over, allow them a period with less water (but do not allow soil to dry out) before the new growing season begins. Then give light applications of houseplant fertilizer and keep soil evenly moist. Transplant into a larger pot if needed.

To induce flowering for next Christmas requires a bit more planning and attention. Starting 40 days before colored bracts are desired (October 1st works well), the plants must have 13 hours a day of total darkness. Place them in a room with no windows, under plant lights on a timer. Set the timer to turn lights off for 13 to 16 hours of complete darkness each day. Make sure no light gets through cracks around doors to interrupt the necessary period of darkness or the plants will not color up properly!

Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

Although this plant is reputed to be poisonous, it would take a very large amount to cause any adverse effects. However, keep it out of reach of pets and children, as it can cause nausea and diarrhea. If Fido does munch on the leaves, it is not cause for an emergency trip to the vet’s office!

Some people report an allergic reaction to the sap from the leaves, so avoid contact if you have latex allergies.

(Source – University of Illinois)

Poinsettias with ‘splash’ markings are very attractive!

National Poinsettia Day Activities

December 12th was chosen as National Poinsettia Day in memory of Joel Robert Poinsettia’s death on December 12th, 1851. And although that may be a sad occasion, there are numerous activities your family can enjoy to celebrate the introduction of this beautiful flower to the United States.  

DIY Christmas Card Ideas from the Homestead

Here are some ideas to celebrate National Poinsettia Day:

Poinsettia Flowers for Christmas

Enjoy a Live Poinsettia Plant for the Holiday!

Who can resist a live Poinsettia plant for Christmas? Real flowers beat the plastic ones any day, and you can keep one as a houseplant instead of tossing in the garbage. If the plant doesn’t survive, it is safe to compost for your garden.

Bring a Poinsettia to a neighbor, friend, nursing home or your child’s teacher! (Seriously, teachers have enough coffee mugs already!)

Anyone who enjoys gardening will love to get one of these pretty Poinsettias. The white varieties might make a beautiful decoration for Hanukkah if they are available. 

With a bit of extra care, you’ll be able to enjoy the same plant year after year!

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18 comments on “Poinsettia Flowers for Christmas

  1. farmgal

    I adore these plants, they are so beautiful. I think they brighten up the sometimes grey days of December, I am glad you touched on the fact that they can cause some issues with the pets and certain related allergies in people as well.

    I have to admit that I really like my christmas Cactus as well.

    1. Homesteader Post author

      I think that there are more greenhouses that sell them here in the US…so they may be pricey in Europe. I like them because they are a natural decoration.

  2. Julie

    I loved this post. Great information. Considering I don’t like to waste anything, Poinsettias were something I have always loved, but shied away from getting. Now, though, you have shown me what to do to keep them. I can’t wait to get me one and try this. If it works, I just might end up with a Poinsettia forest! 🙂

    1. Homesteader Post author

      Best wishes with the Poinsettia forest, Julie! I hate to waste too…and usually I only have a Poinsettia if someone gives me one. But this year I splurged…$3 for a pretty little pink and white one. I know, I know…big spender, lol!

    1. Homesteader Post author

      I love to hear other peoples’ perspective, Monetta. I have never had the pleasure of seeing Poinsettias growing wild! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. Lacey

    Poinsettias are so pretty! And I love all the activities you suggested. They would be perfect for a cold day with the kids. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Homesteader Post author

      Thank you, Lacey! I like to include information for families who homeschool or need activities for their holiday vacation. Let me know if you have a favorite activity. 🙂

  4. Maia

    I absolutely love decorating my house this time of year with poinsettias! They are so beautiful and festive. I had no clue that there was a day named for them!

  5. Marla

    Hi Lisa,
    Poinsettia are such pretty plants and they have so many lovely varieties now> I really like the one that is partially pink with white in the leaves. I found it very interesting reading about the history and thanks for including how to care for them> Have a healthy, happy & blessed Christmas and New Year. Tweeted!

  6. Candy

    Like how you include the history of the poinsettia. Beautiful plant some people only keep them over the holidays.

  7. Dianne

    I’ve seen Poinsetta’s my entire life and never taken the time to learn anything about them. I am blown away they grow up the 15 feet tall. This is HUGE to say the least! I was amazed to see the different varieties too. I’ve saw white ones as well as the normal red, but not any of the others. They are gorgeous.
    Very much enjoyed the post, very informative and I glad that I took time to learn more about them. Thanks for sharing all the info.

    1. Homesteader Post author

      Thank you, Dianne! Yes, Poinsettias are pretty interesting plants, aren’t they? I would like to see them in their natural environment someday. 🙂


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