Poinsettias: Caring for the Christmas Colour

In the deep gray and darkness of winter, the bright blossoms of the poinsettia bring the promise of light and colour into our homes.

Brought north from Mexico in 1825, the poinsettia had been part of Christmas celebrations since at least the 17th century. Then, Franciscan monks used the star-shaped leaves to symbolize the star of Bethlehem.

The plants popularity has faded among families with young children due to a persistent urban legend that it is poisonous to small children and house pets. It’s important to note, however, that a 25 Kg child would have to eat about 500 leaves before the toxicity levels would become harmful.  Since the leaves and petals are rumored to be very, very bitter in taste, it’s unlikely any toddler – or house pet — would do more than regret the very first taste.

Caring for poinsettias is much like caring for any other tropical plant. They enjoy direct sunlight, warm temperatures and need fairly frequent watering as soon as the soil feels dry to the touch. While the red and white varieties of poinsettias are still the best known and most popular, pink and even pastel yellow hybrids are now available for the holiday season.