1. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are native to Mexico and Central America. They are tropical perennial plants and grow as tall as 12’ tall in their native environment.
2. They were prized by Aztec kings for their blood purity symbolism and used in winter celebrations. The sap (latex) was used to alleviate pain and treat skin and hair problems.
3. Poinsettias were introduced to the U.S. by Joel Poinsett, the first Ambassador to Mexico.
4. The brilliant red flowers are actually modified leaves called bracts. We can now get poinsettia cultivars with white, cream, pink, peach & variegated bracts.
5. Poinsettias are not poisonous. Don’t eat them, though, as they can cause stomach upset.
6. Poinsettias became associated with Christmas in Mexico, in the 1600s.
7. Place poinsettias near a sunny window away from cool drafts and toasty heaters. They prefer humid air and temperatures from 60F to 75F.
8. Water them when their soil surface feels dry. They should be kept moist, not soggy.
9. They will freeze outside. If you place them outside in a sunny spot in the daytime remember to bring them in overnight.
10. If you don’t want to throw away your poinsettias at the end of the season you can find plant care and re-blooming instructions online at websites like About.com. The process is meticulous and involved. Most people give up or forget about the plants throughout the year. Your next choice would be to compost them.
Karen Boness, Sun Green Scene