NYC Holiday Flower Files: Pointsettia


Poinsettia Facts

Poinsettia Quick Notes /

A popular floral symbol of the Christmas Season, Pointsettias are indigenous to Mexico and Central America. The poinsettia plant generally grows to be between two feet and thirteen feet tall. The common English name – poinsettia – comes from the last name of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico. Mr. Poinsett introduced the plant to the US in 1825.

Poinsettia Visual Notes /

The large dark green dentate leaves grow lower on the stem than the colored bracts, which are often mistaken for petals. The colored bracts are available in white, cream, pale green, pink, orange, marbled, or the most popular – bright red. The color of the bracts is affected by photoperiodism. Photoperiodism is a physiological reaction caused by the length of daylight or night. Poinsettias are peculiar in that their bracts require at least twelve hours of darkness in order to change color, but also exposure to bright light to deepen the shade of the color. The flowers of the poinsettia are tiny and unassuming.  Their yellow structures cluster in the center of the leaves.



Poinsettia Flower History/

The poinsettia has been called many things over the years and around the globe. The original name for the poinsettia plant is Cuetlaxochitl, which is Nahuatl for “flower that grows in residues or soil”. The ancient Aztec used the Cuetlaxochitl bracts for their red dye and as a medicine. In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de noche buena or “Christmas Eve flower” while in some other Spanish speaking countries it is called flor de pascua or “Easter flower”.  In Egypt, the name Bent El Consul translates as “the consul’s daughter” – in honor of Mr. Poinsett.

In the US, the poinsettia was popularized by the Ecke family in California who first sold poinsettia plants at street stands during the Holiday Season. After three generations of cultivating the plants, Paul Ecke Jr. solidified the plants Holiday association by sending free poinsettia plants to television stations from Thanksgiving to Christmas to be displayed on the air.

Poinsettia Inside Info /

  • Keep your poinsettia healthy by following these pointers
    • Water the soil when it begins to dry (aim for moist, but not soggy).
    • Keep the plant away from hot or cold drafts (a general temperature of 60-70 degrees fahrenheit is best)
    • Expose the plant to natural light
  • Despite popular belief, the Poinsettia is not poisonous – it’s been cleared of all charges by the American Medical Association.
  • Poinsettia plants will change color year after year with a little bit of work. Beginning in October, stash your plants in total darkness from 5pm to 7am and then expose them to full sun. Repeat every day and in eight to ten weeks, your poinsettia bracts should be changing color.



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