This time of year, everything is red and green for the holidays. And no houseplant is identified more with the season than the poinsettia.

Poinsettias are actually native to Mexico, having been introduced to the USA by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who lent his name to the plant. Believe it or not, the bright red, pink or white “flowers” are actually modified leaves known as bracts. The poinsettia flower is small, yellow and star-shaped and located in the center of the plant.

Today poinsettias are known in Mexico as Flor de Nochebuena, meaning “Christmas Eve Flower.” A 16th-century Mexican legend about a girl named Maria being visited by an angel is responsible for the association. The girl was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday and was told by the angel to gather weeds and place them at the church’s altar. A miracle occurred, and the weeds transformed into beautiful red poinsettias as a gift to the newborn baby Jesus.

Today there are over 100 varieties of poinsettia and they come in an array of colors. The most popular hues are deep red, bright red, pink, white and candy striped.
One myth about the plant is that it is highly poisonous. Poinsettias are only mildly toxic to children and pets. The worst that will happen if a leaf is rubbed on the skin is mild itching, and nausea may be caused by ingesting a leaf. Neither would require a trip to the hospital.

If you are gifted a poinsettia or decide to buy one for your home this holiday season, you’ll want to know how to keep it happy year-round, so it comes back big and beautiful next season. I recommend the following website for step-by-step growing instructions:

Have a great holiday season and if you have any questions about poinsettia care or want to purchase them, feel free to stop in at Enchanted Florist at 65-10 Grand Ave and I’ll be happy to assist you. I will be donating holiday flowers, including a poinsettia, to the JPCA raffle on December 19. See you there.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year to all!