Specie: E. pulcherrima
Name in Latin: Euphorbiaceae
Name in English: Spurge family
Origin: indigenous to Mexico and Central America.
Growth Habit: shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6 to 4 m (2 to 16 ft.).
Flower: The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white or marbled—are actually leaves. the flowers are grouped within the small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and they are called cyathia.
Blooming Period: early winter
Leaf: dark green dentate leaves that measure 7 to 16 cm (3 to 6 inches) in length.
house plant, popular at Christmas
Care and Handling
Soil: good potting mix
Amount of water: When watering it is important to allow the plant to drain out any excess water. Having a poinsettia sit in water can do harm to the plant as it prefers moist soil to direct water. Water thoroughly, then allow top of soil to dry out between waterings. Remove the decorative foil to allow good drainage. This plant is prone to root rot if soil is too soggy
Nutrition: high-phosphorus fertilizer diluted by half every 2 weeks.
Special handling: Poinsettia needs long nights and short days to bloom. Beginning in early October, give it 10 weeks of long nights (14 hours of complete darkness). Put a box over it, or put it in a closet, if you need to so that the plant gets uninterrupted darkness every night. Bring it out during the daytime and put it in a bright (indirect sun) location.
The colors come from photoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness for 12 hours at a time for at least 5 days in a row to change color. At the same time, the plants need a lot of light during the day for the brightest color.
The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.