Eight Things You Didn’t Know About Poinsettias

How much did you really know about this misunderstood little plant anyway? Here are eight things you probably didn't know about poinsettias.

  1. First of all, you’ve probably been saying it wrong. Yep! It’s actually a four syllable word, pronounced [poin-set-ee-uh] not that three syllable word you’re likely saying in your head right now…
  2. The big red leaves aren’t actually flowers, they’re modified leaves called bracts. The actual flower is the little yellow cluster in the center called cyathia. 
  3. Poinsettias are actually small tropical trees that grow up to 12 feet tall in the wild! The poinsettias you’ll find in your office or home today have been bred to bloom longer and grow (much) shorter than their wild ancestors.  
  4. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. They've been deemed safe by the American Medical Association. The most severe symptom of ingesting a poinsettia (for pets and people alike) is mild stomach indigestion, and the sticky white sap can be a skin irritant. That's good news for your pets.
  5. When the red leaves (bracts) fall off after the holidays, don’t toss your plant: it’s still very much alive! Your poinsettia can (and will) thrive after the holidays. They're easy to keep alive, just keep it in a room with natural light and keep the soil moist.  
  6. They can bloom again, but it’s quite tricky. For poinsettias to get those pretty red leaves for the holidays, keep the plant in complete darkness for 14 hours a day for 8-10 weeks. Not even a nightlight can be present in the room, it’s that sensitive! Even if you follow the very specific light regiment, not every plant will bloom again. Good thing they’re still beautiful when they're green!  
  7. Poinsettias were introduced to the U.S. from Mexico by Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett in the early 1800s, but they have been used as a part of religious ceremonies in Mexico for centuries, all the way back to the time of the Aztecs.  
  8. Just like everything else, poinsettias have their own holiday. National Poinsettia day is December 12, and has been celebrated since Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett died on that day in 1851.

Read all about The Legend of the Poinsettia this holiday season or explore all things winter.