Seed World

Do You Have a Poinsettia for Christmas?

Christmas Poinsettia Plant Isolated on White Background.

When we make our way into the Christmas season, there’s one thing that’s common in households for decorations: poinsettias! These bright plants are native to Mexico and have gained popularity due to their colorful leaves. 

While we generally think of poinsettias as being red, they can vary in color! In the summer months, poinsettias are a dark green plant. What allures people to this holiday classic, though, is that the bracts (or leaves) of the poinsettias change in response to shorter, winter days. They can range in color from creamy white to pink to the traditional bright red — or a mixture of the three.

The Aztecs cultivated the poinsettia in Oaxatcpec, which is now the Mexican state Morelos. It was prized by Kings Netzahualcyotl and Montezuma, and the Aztecs used the bracts for a reddish-purple dye, as well as the latex to counteract fever. In addition, the plant played an important part in the midwinter celebrations, by representing purity and blood sacrifices.

During the 17th century, Franciscan priests observed the plant blooming during the Christmas season and began incorporating the plant into the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre nativity procession to represent the blood of Christ.

Paul Ecke, Sr., was instrumental in establishing poinsettias in the U.S. by growing them as cut flowers in Hollywood and Beverly Hills in the 1920s. His family continued to grow and ship poinsettias throughout the country for years. His family would later establish the Eckespoint series in the 1950s.


  • 1600s — Franciscan priests begin using poinsettias to symbolize the blood of Christduring nativity processions.
  • 1825 — First U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the flower to the U.S.
  • 1920s — Paul Ecke, Sr., begins growing and shipping poinsettias across the U.S.
  • 1950s — Active breeding of poinsettias began to develop cultivars that would retain their leaves and bracts for longer periods of time.
  • 1960s — Paul Ecke, Jr., begins media promotions of poinsettias, specifically on the Tonight Show and the Bob Hope Christmas Specials.


100 is the approximate number of varieties of poinsettias available today.

35 million poinsettias are sold approximately every year in the U.S.

23% is the percentage poinsettias make up of all potted plant sales. 

5,000 is the number of hospitals Random Acts of Flowers delivers poinsettias to during the holiday season for a little extra cheer.

Fun Facts

  • The colorful “flowers” of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called “bracts.”
  • Poinsettias grow well in moist soil and temperatures between 65 and 70 F.
  • December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous, but the sap may cause dermatitis.