Happy Poinsettia Day! (Care Tips Included)

Today (December 12) is Poinsettia Day! Who knew this favorite holiday plant even had a day of its own.

But, today is the anniversary of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico and an amateur botanist (among many other things), who took a cutting of Euphorbia pulcherrima and eventually brought it to his home garden in South Carolina. He loved the bright red brachts on the plant, which in Mexico grew up to 15 feet tall. Through a variety of twists and turns, the plant got the common name poinsettia and by the early 1900s was a popular holiday plant.

red poinsettia day

The red leaves of the poinsettia are not flowers but brachts.

A shrub in its native territory, the Aztecs used it for medicinal and other purposes eons before Ambassador Poinsett took his cutting.

It’s the bright red leaves that seem to connect poinsettias with the holidays, through the plant comes in white, pink, marbled and a variety of other leaves. If you get a plant to care for this year, it’s relatively easy to keep them going for several weeks or even months.

Poinsettias like light — 6 hours a day of indirect light, if you have it. A south- or east-facing window is a good choice, but keep the plant away from the cold glass and cold drafts. Remember, it would rather be in Mexico! Poinsettias like moisture, but their roots should not sit in wet soil. Remove the foil wrapping or put holes in it so the plant will drain. Check it every day or so and water it when the soil feels dry to the touch. To keep the plant going, fertilize it with a houseplant fertilizer once a month. If your plant survives, put it in a pot and let it enjoy summer in Minnesota. Of course, it will need to come inside when the weather gets cold.

Have you ever wondered how all those poinsettias are grown in time for the holidays? A few years ago, I had a chance to visit the Bachman’s growing range in Farmington, MN, to see them. Here’s my report and photos from 2014.

Happy Poinsettia Day!

1 Comment

  1. Pela Nelson on January 2, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you for the great history lesson.

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