December 12, 2016
The poinsettia is the most popular holiday plant this time of year. They come in an array of different colors from pink, blue, purple, white, orange, even multi-colored but are traditionally red. You’ve seen these beautiful plants in every supermarket from November to December but they mysteriously disappear after New Year’s Day.
Many people toss them, knowing they will buy new ones next year. Others will attempt but fail to keep up with the 12 hours of dark that is required to alter the color on the bracts (bracts are the leaf-like structures that change colors). However, may fortunate and/or skilled gardeners will nurture their plants keeping them alive all year allowing them to grow to 10-feet tall, enjoying their colorful autumnal bloom.
Native to southern Mexico, poinsettias were originally used by the Aztecs for dye and medicinal purposes. The plant was introduced to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, who brought the plant back to South Carolina in 1828. He began propagating and dispersing the plant amongst his friends. By 1836, the plant gained the common name poinsettia. In honor of Joel Poinsett, December 12th has been titled National Poinsettia Day, marking his passing and honoring his botanical achievements.
Poinsettias are not poisonous, however, those with latex allergies or sensitivities might want to avoid the sap, which contains latex (check it out, latex is a natural product). What you should be concerned about are pets and children. It is not edible, and those with cats, dogs, horses, cows and birds should proceed with caution when this plant is around their animals.
Don’t throw your poinsettia away. This seasonal plant can bloom until March, and then be saved until next November when it will bloom all over again. Check out UF/IFAS for tips on how to care for your poinsettia through the holiday season and beyond.
Happy National Poinsettia Day!