Other names: Christmas Star, Noche Buena, Flor de Pascua, Pascua, Easter Flower, Mexican flame leaf, Crown of the Andes
Poinsettia is a tropical shrub in the spurge family that is native to Mexico and nearby countries. Poinsettias “flowers” are actually brightly colored bracts that surround the true flower clusters which are small and yellow and not much to look at.
Poinsettia History and Folklore
According to a popular story, a very poor child was sad that he or she (depending on the teller) did not have a gift to present the baby Jesus at the nativity play at the church. She was inspired to pick weeds from the roadside and laid them before the manger where they grew and became bright poinsettia plants.
Poinsettias were first introduced to the United States by Ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1825.
A short time after your poinsettia comes home, its leaves will begin to fall off. Don’t worry. Cut the plant back by half and place it in a sheltered, shady spot and water only when the soil becomes dry. In the summer, re-pot the poinsettia and place it in a bright spot out of direct sunlight and increase watering slightly but do not allow it to become waterlogged. It should begin to leaf out again. To encourage the return of its brightly colored bracts, place your poinsettia in complete darkness for at least 12 hours per night and ensure that it gets plenty of indirect sunlight during the day. Do not allow your poinsettia to get chilled. Keep it in temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You may place it outdoors in a spot with filtered sunlight if temperatures are favorable.
Spiritual Uses of Poinsettia
Poinsettia is an appropriate decoration for winter solstice celebrations. Choose white, pink or red poinsettias based on the color energy you wish to bring to your ceremony.
Healing with Poinsettia
Poinsettia latex has been used to induce vomiting. A poultice of the leaves has been used for aches and pains. Both methods are potentially very uncomfortable.
Other Uses for Poinsettia
The latex has been used as a hair remover in Mexico and a red dye may be obtained from the bracts.
Poinsettia is mildly toxic and may cause diarrhea and vomiting if ingested, but is not considered dangerous. It may also cause skin irritation and temporary blindness if you get it in your eyes. Poinsettia sap contains latex and can cause reactions in allergic individuals.