Poinsettias are everywhere around the holidays. Their bright color make them perfectly festive for this time of year. While they don’t love cold weather, the short days that winter brings foster beautiful growth in poinsettias, making them the quintessential holiday plant. 

The History of Poinsettias

Before they ever entered the United States, poinsettias had quite a reputation. In the 14th-16th centuries, sap from the poinsettia was used medicinally to control fevers. Additionally, the colored bracts helped to create dye. One fateful day in 1828, Joel Roberts Poinsett, Mexico’s first United States Ambassador, found a bright red shrub by the side of the road. Impressed by the beauty and peculiarity of the plant, Poinsett brought cuttings from the roadside shrub back to his South Carolina greenhouse and the rest is history. Years later, horticulturist William Prescott was tasked with renaming the Euphorbia pulcherrima, as it had become quite a popular plant in the United States. Having recently studied Poinsett’s discovery, Prescott named the plant after Poinsett.

Fun Poinsettia Facts

  • The United States’ economy receives more than $250 million from Poinsettia sales alone, primarily in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.
  • Poinsettias are the highest-selling potted plant throughout Canada and the United States.
  • California produces more poinsettias than any other state in the U.S.
  • Studies estimate that 80% of poinsettia sales are made by women.
  • There are over 100 poinsettia varieties.
  • Poinsettias aren’t always red! They can be pink, white, burgundy, and even marbled!

Have questions about how to care for a poinsettia? Click on one of the following topics to be taken directly to the answer!

What is a poinsettia?

Poinsettias, or Euphorbia pulcherrima, are a part of one of the largest plant families, the Spurge family. The Spurge family is comprised of plants with simple flowers and varied leaves.

What should I look for when selecting a poinsettia?

When selecting a poinsettia, there are a number of factors to consider. Choose a plant with thoroughly colored bracts and foliage from bract tip to end of the stem. Be sure that the plant is full on all sides and that the bracts and leaves are not drooping. A stiff stem will be fairly indicative of durability. Lastly, check the yellow flowers in the center of the poinsettias. Try to pick plants whose flowers have not yet opened, as this will ensure a longer lasting plant.

What kind of soil is best for poinsettias?

A traditional potting soil is suitable for poinsettias, but it is important that the soil be loose to allow for adequate draining. If the soil cannot properly drain, it will retain water and the roots may begin to rot.

Can you plant poinsettias outside?


Poinsettias can be planted outside, but they are very intolerant of frost. Because of this, you must bring poinsettias inside when temperatures drop below 50℉. Poinsettias grow best outdoors in temperate climates, where they do not experience extreme temperatures on either side of the spectrum.

What temperatures do poinsettias tolerate?

The ideal temperature for poinsettias lies between 65 and 70℉, and they should be kept away from any cold or warm drafts. Frost can be fatal to these plants, so never put a poinsettia in an environment where the temperature may dip below 50℉.

How often should poinsettias be watered?

Water poinsettias only when the top 1-2 inches of the soil feels dry to the touch. It is important not to overwater. If the poinsettia’s pot has a saucer beneath it, make sure to remove any standing water from the saucer.

How much water should poinsettias get?

Like with many potted plants, watering poinsettias is a delicate balance. The soil should never completely dry out, but it should only be watered to the point of saturation. If the plant sits in standing water, it can fall victim to root rot. If your poinsettia’s pot has holes in the bottom, water only until water begins to drain from the pot.

How much light do poinsettias need?

The color of a poinsettia’s bracts is created through a process called “photoperiodism,” meaning the processes are related to the photoperiod or length of day. In order for a poinsettia to change color, it needs twelve hours of darkness for at least five consecutive days. After the color change process has taken place, poinsettias need at least six hours of indirect sunlight per day to maintain their brightest color.

How often should poinsettias be fertilized?

Poinsettias should not be fertilized during the blooming period. In the spring, summer, and fall, they can be fertilized every 3-4 weeks with a half-strength fertilizer. This will promote new growth in the off-seasons.

Are poinsettias perennial?

The answer to this question is not a straightforward one. Technically, poinsettias are perennial, but they require some care in order to come back each year. The temperature of the environment is vital for the continued survival of a poinsettia. In warm climates, poinsettias may have no trouble coming back in full force each season. It is especially important that the plants be kept out of frost in order for them to thrive.

How do I get my poinsettia to rebloom?

At the beginning of October, the plant should be kept in complete darkness for 12-14 hours each night for a period of 8-10 weeks. This may require moving the poinsettia to a dark space, such as a closet, or covering it entirely with a box. The poinsettia also needs sunlight during the “reblooming” period. Move the poinsettia to a location at which it can receive 6-8 hours of indirect, but bright sunlight each day. It should be in full bloom by November or December depending on the individual plant’s response time.

Why do poinsettias turn yellow?

Poinsettias can turn yellow for various reasons. In order to best diagnose the problem, look at the roots. If the roots appear healthy, the poinsettia is probably not getting enough water and/or light. If the roots are discolored, the poinsettia may have root rot, often caused by overwatering.

Why do poinsettias lose their leaves?

If your poinsettia is dropping its leaves, there may be a number of factors to blame. Poinsettias are intolerant of the cold, so if the temperature is too low, it may begin to lose leaves. Additionally, poor nutrition or insufficient light can be at fault.  

Why do poinsettias’ colors fade?

You might notice that the color of your poinsettia is not as vibrant as it once was. This could be an inevitable side effect of the age of the plant, but it also can be due to a lack of light or temperatures that are too warm.

How do you prune a poinsettia?


The best time to prune a poinsettia is in February or early March. When pruning, cut the stems back so that they remain 4-6 inches in length. 1-3 leaves should remain on each stem.

Are the red parts of the poinsettia flowers or leaves?

Though many think of the colored portion (usually red, but can be other colors) of the poinsettia as a flower, it is actually a collection of bracts, or modified leaves. Where the bracts come together in the center, there are small yellow flowers called cyathia. When these flowers discard their pollen, the bracts will drop soon after.

Are poinsettias poisonous?

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. After feeding rats “extraordinarily high doses of various portions of the poinsettias” scientists in an Ohio State University study found the rats to be unaffected. To put the “extraordinarily high doses” in perspective for humans, OSU associate professor Robert McMahon says a 50-pound child would have to eat approximately 500 poinsettia leaves. That being said, you probably shouldn’t go eating poinsettia leaves as a snack. Despite their horrible taste, they can cause nausea or vomiting, especially in dogs and cats. Are poinsettias poisonous to cats or dogs? Not necessarily, but to be safe, it would be best to keep pets away from these plants.

Can I get a rash or skin irritation from touching a poinsettia?

The milky sap of the poinsettia has been known to cause skin irritation and rash, especially on those with latex allergies. Take extra precaution around poinsettias in the case of a severe latex allergy.

How do you propagate a poinsettia?

Propagation of poinsettias is done with plant cuttings. Parent plants should be kept in bright, temperate locations in order to produce healthy stems that will work well for cuttings. When the desired cuttings are around 3-4 inches long with two or three leaves, they can be removed and used for propagation. Strong roots should develop after about a month.

Where do poinsettias grow naturally?


In Mexico, poinsettias grow in the wild as perennial shrubs or small trees. Growing this way, poinsettias can reach 10-15 feet in height.

Ambius often uses poinsettias in our holiday displays. Whether you just want one poinsettia for the receptionist’s desk or an entire poinsettia tree to bring beauty to your lobby, Ambius is here to make your vision come to life. Call us at (888) 665-3686 or contact us online today.