Previously known as the “Christmas Star” and “Mexican flame leaf,” this striking bloom caught the attention of Joel Robert Poinsett, an American physician and diplomat on a trip as America’s first ambassador to Mexico. In Mexico, the plant is called “la flor de Nochebuena.” Poinsett introduced the plant to the United States, hence its common English name “poinsettia.”

Poinsettia care year-round

When caring for a poinsettia plant, the most important considerations are temperature, light, and watering. Poinsettias are light-loving plants. They prefer southeasterly, easterly, or western window exposure. Being tropical, they thrive in temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees. At night, you can moved them to a cooler location but not one where the temp is below 60 degrees. In northern climates, keep plants away from drafts and cold windows.

“Poinsettia care starts when you make the purchase,” says Renato Cruz Sogueco, vice president of digital strategy at BloomNet. “Ironically, for a plant beloved during the cool holiday season, poinsettias dislike chilly weather!”

Sogueco advises to avoid buying the poinsettia placed right at the doorway or sold outdoors. Instead, choose the plants inside the shop, insulated within other poinsettias, and look for small, tightly clustered yellow buds in the center. “Inspect the foliage to confirm none are bent or damaged, which may be a sign they were exposed to cold during delivery,” he says.

Check the soil of your plant daily, making sure it is lightly moist but never soggy or overdry. Both dryness and over-watering can cause leaves to droop or fall. A half-hour after watering, check to see that your plant is not sitting in water. If there is excessive water at the bottom, drain it off; this prevents root damage.

Poinsettia facts

  • The bright colorful leaves of a poinsettia are often mistaken for the flowers of the plant, but the actual flowers are the yellow or green that grows in the center of the colored leaf clusters.
  • The myth that poinsettias are toxic to pets is just that — a myth. If eaten, the plant may cause irritation to a pet’s mouth or digestive system, but there has never been a recorded report of pet fatality.
  • Despite being a classic Christmas plant, poinsettias can be updated when planted in an on-point container or made into a holiday wreath, and white poinsettias bring in a tasteful, simple design to a holiday vignette.

Poinsettia care after Christmas

While poinsettias are the flower most commonly associated with Christmas, they have overall wintry appeal and are a colorful addition to your plant collection. Do keep in mind, though, that these tropical plants require a good deal of care.

Pro tip: Sogueco notes that if you noticed frost on your trip over to purchase your poinsettia, cover the plant when you load it into the car. Even short exposure to cold could harm the plant.

“With this type of love and attention, you’ll be enjoying the poinsettia’s vibrant-colored leaves for weeks beyond the holiday,” Sogueco says.

Christmas ad with stockings

Jacqueline deMontravel is’s senior editor of floral and gifting. She is also an editor, writer, designer, artist and stylist. Previously, Jacqueline was the editorial director of Engaged Media’s Lifestyle group, overseeing such publications as Cottages & Bungalows, Romantic Homes, Yum, Seaside Style, Cottage White, French Style, Happy Modern and Rooms. Formerly the editor of Country magazine, she held editor positions at Self and GQ. She has been a contributor with Hearst's Harper's Bazaar and Black Book magazines.

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