Learning more about Poinsettias and how to care for them

Published 1:48 pm Saturday, December 7, 2019

By Jennifer Buckner

Director of Horticulture – Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center


Nothing says, “Get ready for Christmas!” more than a beautiful Poinsettia. But do you know the history behind the popular Christmas flower? The “Flor de Noche Buena” or Christmas Eve Flower, as Poinsettias are known in their native Mexico and Central America habitat, is a tropical woody shrub that can reach up to 10 feet tall. The Aztecs who used the bracts called them ‘cuitlaxochitl’, the colorful modified leaves surrounding the yellow flowers, for dye and the milky sap as a fever reducer. 

Poinsettias began their association with Christmas in the 17th century when Franciscan friars included them in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped patterns of the leaves symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and the red color represents Jesus’ blood sacrifice. 

The popularity of the plant in the United States is due to one man, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the Poinsettia’s namesake. Poinsett was the first U.S. Minister to Mexico as well as a botanist and physician He was intrigued by the winter flower and brought it back to his South Carolina greenhouse for cultivation in the 1830’s.


Caring for Your Poinsettia All Year


During the Christmas Holiday:

  • Keep your Poinsettia in a bright, indirect lit location inside
  • Water when the potting mix begins to feel dry to the touch
  • Keep away from hot or cold drafts
  • Begin fertilizing after color begins to fade
  • Protect from temperatures below 50°f


After the Christmas Holiday to Early Autumn:

  • Place Poinsettia in a sunny indoor location and keep the soil barely moist
  • Trim to about 8” tall after leaves fall in the Spring, keep watered and fertilized
  • When new growth appears repot and take outside, fertilize weekly and give morning sun
  • Pinch a quarter of the tips of the Poinsettia back to encourage branching
  • Bring indoors when night temperatures fall below 50°F


From October 1 to December 15:

  • Place in a dark place from 5 PM to 8 AM. Make sure absolutely NO light breaks this dark time
  • Give 6-8 hours for sun per day
  • After bracts start to color, discontinue long nights and fertilizer
  • Place the poinsettia in its final holiday location!


Enjoy your Poinsettia!

Article provided by Orange County Master Gardeners. For your horticultural question, please call our HotLine at 409 882-7010 Tuesday or Thursday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or use our Contact form on our website https://txmg.org/orange . We meet the 2nd Thursday of each month 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Orange County EXPO Center 11475 FM 1442, Orangefield. We start with a potluck supper social, business meeting then most meetings we have a speaker. Our meetings are open to the public for anyone to attend. For more information, contact Sheri Bethard at sheribethard@yahoo.com