by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
The poinsettia is a popular plant used in many homes around the Christmas season with its history dating to the Aztecs during the 15th century.
The distinctive, colorful part of the poinsettia is not its flower but its petal-like bracts.
Poinsettia cultivars come in many different colors and shapes. Bract color varies from
red to pink, white, marble, orange and even purple.
Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are non-poisonous and non-toxic. However, some
people may be sensitive to the latex in poinsettia sap. Although eating even a large
number of leaves will not result in illness, the plant is not considered edible. When used
as an indoor plant, it should be kept out of reach of children and pets.
Until about ten years ago, poinsettia bracts dropped off the plant if it was kept indoors
for more than a few days. Intensive breeding programs have produced varieties–or
cultivars–that retain their foliage and bracts indoors.
Some new cultivars involve unusual color combinations. The bracts of the Ice Punch
cultivar come out red and turn white as they grow. The color pattern of Peppermint
Twist’s bracts varies from one plant to another, giving each plant a unique look.
With proper care, your poinsettias may stay colorful for many months. Poinsettias can
retain their color until March if they are not exposed to freezing temperatures.
Keep your poinsettias away from drafts and chilly air. Poinsettias grow best in well-lit
areas but direct sun or hot lights can dry out the plants.
Water your poinsettia when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Place a saucer
under the pot and drain the saucer if water starts to collect in it. Keep the soil from
getting soggy. Too much water can kill a poinsettia.
Gently spray the plants with a mist sprayer or place them on gravel trays. Slightly humid
air will help prolong the plants’ color and life span.
Do not fertilize your indoor poinsettias until you are ready to move them outside after
the danger of frosts. High levels of fertilizer will reduce the quality of the plant.
Information in this article was adapted and excerpted from Poinsettias For Florida,
Indoors and Outdoors written by former UF/IFAS Extension Horticulturists Drs. Bob
Black and Rick Schoellhorn.
For more information on poinsettias, visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep349 or contact the
UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.