Did You Know, Fast Facts

Are Poinsettias Poisonous? 10 Fascinating Facts about this prolific holiday plant.

  1. Poinsettias account for a quarter of all houseplants sold in North America each year generating sales of over $144 million dollars annually.
  2. What most people think are flowers are actually leaves. The flower of a poinsettia is that small yellow cluster in the centre. The dazzling displays of red that typically lure us in are actually bracts; a leaf-like structure. This accounts for its long-lived displays and also makes it less messy than say, Christmas cactus blossoms. Just to be clear, I lOVE Christmas cactus blossoms and having to sweep its vibrant blooms up once they fall is a small price to pay for the beauty it gives. But I digress.
  3. While red bracts are the most popular and account for almost three quarters of poinsettia sales each year, they also come in varying shades of cream, green and pink. Some even show up in hues of blue, but in that case there has been a chemical intervention. They also don’t naturally grow glitter on their leaf tips. 🙂
  4. Poinsettias are NOT poisonous, though they aren’t salad bar material neither. Ingesting a leaf won’t kill you, but it might upset your stomach. The sap in the leaves may also cause a bit of a rash, but isn’t life threatening.
  5. Native to Mexico, a poinsettia in its natural habitat can grow to an impressive 3 – 4.5 meters (10 – 15 feet). However, their natural growth pattern is much more sparse and somewhat scraggly. Still, they’re an impressive sight to behold.
  6. Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist and US ambassador to Mexico, first introduced the poinsettia to the North American masses. In December, 1828, he spotted the brilliantly coloured shrub growing by the wayside in Taxco, Mexico and sent cuttings to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. Other botanists scoffed at his find and dubbed it a weed of little consequence, but Poinsett was smitten and soon others were as well. The red leaves made it a perfect plant for the holidays.
  7. Early versions of the poinsettia were popular, but it only flashed its brilliant bracts for a few days. It wasn’t until the 1960s that botanists were able to manipulate the potted version to hold its colour longer.
  8. In Mexico the poinsettia is known as “flor de la noche buena”. Legend has it that a poor girl named Maria or Pepita and her little brother Pablo (or in some versions her cousin Pedro) were on their way to their Village Church on Christmas Eve. Maria was in despair over having nothing to give baby Jesus as an offering. In desperation she picked some weeds to make a bouquet to leave at the manger in the village’s Nativity scene. Her little brother (or cousin) consoled her by saying it didn’t matter what she offered, so long as it was given in love. The other children of the village ridiculed her bouquet of weeds, until they saw them turn from green to bright red as Maria knelt at the alter. The village realized they had witnessed a Christmas miracle. The plant, no longer a weed, became known instead as Flor de la Noche Buena which can be translated as meaning “Christmas Eve flower”.
  9. Getting Poinsettias to “bloom” for potted sales is a fine tuned art. The plant needs at least 10 weeks where they receive 12 hours or less of daylight. This naturally occurs in many countries and can be replicated with care. Many green-thumbed people delight in bringing their poinsettias back into “bloom” year after year. Others are not impressed with the work or the result and opt to compost the old and buy a new plant every year.
  10. To keep your poinsettia healthy, avoid placing it near heat registers or cold drafts from doors. Keep the soil moist, but not saturated. The ideal temperature is between 15 – 20 degrees Celsius (60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Poinsettias cannot tolerate cold temperatures or being allowed to completely dry out. When purchasing in cold climates, try to buy your plant on a warm day, wrap it in some sort of insulating wrap or bring along a cooler to place the plant inside of for the ride home. Remove, unwrap and enjoy!

1 thought on “Are Poinsettias Poisonous? 10 Fascinating Facts about this prolific holiday plant.”

  1. I always thought they were poisonous, and I love all the other interesting facts, thank you, I’ll be buying some poinsettias this year 😀💕


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