'Tis the Season for Festive Poinsettias

Nov 30, 2018

The poinsettia is everywhere this time of year.  It’s beautiful, but where did this plant come from and how did it become such an important Christmas symbol? 

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulturist Chris Currey about the long history of the poinsettia. Later in the hour, Richard Jauron joins to answer listener questions.  

Poinsettias are native to Northern Guatemala and Northern Mexico. According to Currey, they first took off as a holiday plant in the United States around 1828 in Philadelphia and then were formally named in Scotland shortly after. While poinsettias were originally red, breeding has allowed for a wide range of colors. 

"When you started to get into breeding poinsettias then they would purposefully make crosses to create more variety in the colors," Currey says. "You have everything from white, pink, red... to deep plum purple."

Because of their native home in the tropics, the ideal temperature for poinsettias is above freezing. Otherwise, they're a fairly hardy plant: water as needed and be sure to keep them away from cold windows.