poinsettias add holiday spirit to your space

I hope you’ve had a terrific month of Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. Whether you have a Christmas tree, Christmas cactus, or poinsettia in your home, these seasonal plants can truly add colour and a holiday spirit to any space. Arrive at a seasonal party with a poinsettia in hand and you are an immediate hit!

Poinsettias are a brilliantly bright plant with green leaves that turn to red (or a white variety) and bring Christmas joy to any home or space.

Although the red leaves of the poinsettia look like flowers, they are called bracts and have the ability to change colour. It is the tiny yellow cluster in the centre of the bract that is actually the flower of the poinsettia, and is where the plant is pollinated.

The poinsettia is thought to have originated in southwest Mexico in a region called Taxco del Alarcon, and was brought into the Southern United States by the (then) American Ambassador to Mexico, JR Poinsett, for whom the colourful plant was named. Poinsettias are also known as Painted Leaf and the Mexican Fire Plant, and have become the most popular festive plant throughout Canada and the US as a display of holiday spirit.

The Aztec culture of Mesoamerica used the poinsettia plant for various medicinal and sundry purposes, and in contemporary culture, we use the white sap contained in the leaves of the plant to make latex. Take caution to place your poinsettia on a table away from pets as their leaves are slightly toxic to dogs and cats and may cause vomiting if ingested.

I’ll be heading to Mexico in January for some chocolate fun and hope to see poinsettias growing wild and free. For the most part, we in Canada have to enjoy them inside as potted plants. During the summer, we can have them outdoors on our decks or in our gardens, but they are then just plants of green leaves. The beautiful red (or pink or white) blooms only come at the end of the year when they’ve been put into complete darkness for 12-16 hours each day for up to 40 days leading up to Christmas. Have you had success in getting a poinsettia to rebloom?

Wishing you luck with that, and much good fortune as we begin this new decade. Happy 2020 to all!

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

18 Responses

  1. Janet says:

    I received a beautiful cream poinsettia for xmas. Let’s hope I can maintain it! Happy New Year Doreen.

  2. Monica Lessey says:

    In Trinidad, we have the red and white Poinsettia as well as yellow and at least two shades of pink. In our climate it is fairly easy to get the plants to survive and flower in successive years.

    • Hi Monica and thanks for stopping by. Yes, you in more tropical climates are so fortunate that your plants can just remain in the ground and continue to grow. We are not so lucky in the northern hemisphere. Happy New Year to you! 🙂

  3. I love a bright Poinsettia! I can’t wait to see what pics you send back of your Mexico trip and I hope these gems are among them. Happy New Year!

  4. Beverly says:

    I did not know that the poinsetta flower was the yellow section in the middle of the plant. I would like to thank you for providing that information.

    • Hi Bev and Happy New Year! Yes, I, too, was surprised to learn that the poinsettia flower is actually that tiny little yellow cluster within each bract. Wishing you all the best for 2020, and thanks for being one of my top commenters! 🙂

  5. I never knew so much about poinsettias before! Thanks for the info. They are gorgeous and you’re absolutely right about how much joy they bring! I had a spectacular poinsettia last Christmas and my husband planted it outside. He was pretty pleased how it had thrived outside near his succulent garden. I was looking forward to enjoying it inside until the day he sheepishly came in and he admitted that it had gotten zapped by an early frost.

    Enjoy your trip to Mexico! What great timing that will be to get a reprieve from a cold Mainitoba winter (even tho it will be a short one).
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  6. Phoenix says:

    I have tried to keep a poinsettias after Christmas, but I’m not very good with house plants. I do have a few plants, and we keep them outside for the summer months. They seem to do okay, just not the poinsettias. In BC we must keep a de-humidifier going because the climate is so wet through the winter. Even so, my poinsettias do not respond well. Maybe it’s just me. ‍♀️

    • Thanks so joining the conversation, Esther. It’s so interesting how each plant species requires such customized conditions indoors. Yet many of those same plants grow like weeds without any intervention at all outdoors. Best wishes for a fruitful 2020.

  7. Sue Reddel says:

    I love them but keep them out of our home because they are just so poisonous for the cats. No matter where we put them I know their little curious minds would figure out how to get out them.

    • Hi Sue and Happy New Year! That’s odd, because I’ve had cats all my life and not one of them has shown an interest in the poinsettias. I just make sure I have the plant on a table that is not easily accessible. Checking online, it says that poinsettias are only mildly toxic to dogs and cats, meaning that they may vomit if they ate some leaves. So not poisonous, just perhaps a temporary tummy ache for disobedient pets. Cheers and thx for stopping by.
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  8. Bruce Smith says:

    Hi Hope your Christmas was fun. “tis the season for visits and fun with family and friends!
    I kept one plant over the summer and managed to put it in the dark and get nice red flowers again.
    But it is much easier to just replace it every Christmas. It is lovely to see them where they really come from and how large they get there.

    • Hi Bruce & thx so much for your comment. I hope you and Betty have had a super Christmas. Yes, I’m definitely hoping to spot some poinsettias in MX next month. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them large & growing in gardens of southern US. But don’t recall seeing them in MX. Happy New Year & see you next week!

  9. Linda D Paul says:

    I tried to keep them going a couple of times, but I’ve really got a black thumb. I ended up with spindly, anemic looking things. Same thing happens when I try to grow Avocados. My mom used to always have one or two spindly Avocado plants sitting around amongst her cacti. I guess black thumbs run in the family. However, I have kept a Rosemary plant healthy and robust over the winter for going on 3 years now. I love having it in the garage, by the window so I can take cuttings for winter meals. If I’m lucky I can overwinter Oxalis for a year or two.

    • Hi Linda and Happy New Year! Yes, wintering hot-weather plants during our cold winters is certainly a challenge. I’d never had luck in wintering a rosemary plant until last year. It will now try and survive its second indoor dry winter in my home. My friend taught me that ensuring you put those plants in the window daily to ensure they maximize their sun intake, as well as misting the air or the plants will also help, as our indoor environments can get SO dry over the long winters. I’ve kept poinsettias for several years, but have never made the effort to put them in the closet so that they get the daily 16 hours of complete darkness so that they will produce the red leaves. I’m hoping some of my readers might write in and tell us of their success in that endeavour. Wishing you all the best for 2020!

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