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Why Are Poinsettias The Official Christmas Flower?

Ever wondered why poinsettias are so popular at Christmas

We’re here to help. 

We’ve discovered the legend and history of why the poinsettia is the go-to Christmas flower

And, we’re excited to share our insights with you. 

We’re going to start by setting the record straight. 

The bright red and green poinsettia Christmas “flowers” are actually leaves. 

The flowers of the plant are the tiny berry-like structures you’ll see at the end of the bracts. 

This doesn’t make the poinsettia any less stunning. 

And it doesn’t make its story any less magical. 

Ready to find out why these bright, festive plants became a favourite for the holiday season? 

Let’s go…

How Poinsettias Came to Be The Offical Christmas Flower

1. Cuetlaxochitl and Pepita - the Origins of the Poinsettia

Ready to hear a fascinating story that begins in 14th Century Mexico

That’s good. 

This is where the plant that we know as poinsettia has its origins. 

Back then, poinsettia was known as “Cuetlaxochitl.” 

It was used to create textile and clothing dyes

And it’s sap was also thought to reduce a fever.  

The Aztecs prized the plant and the last Aztec emperor, Montezuma, was captivated by it. 

It wasn’t until the 17th century that the plant first became associated with Christmas. 

This was when Franciscan monks in the town of Taxco de Alarcon first used the shrub in Nativity processions

It was also at around this point in history that the legend of Pepita and the “Flowers of the Holy Night” began. 

Image: J.Trandell of a fresco by Diego Rivera in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City

According to this legend, Pepita left her village to visit the Nativity scene at the chapel. 

She couldn’t afford a gift for baby Jesus, so she picked some weeds and took them. 

When she presented the bouquet of weeds to Jesus, they turned into stunning red flowers which locals knew as “Cuetlaxochitl.”

The blooms were referred to as the “Flowers of the Holy Night.”

According to this legend, this was how the plant we know as poinsettia became associated with Christmas

We love this magical tale. 

But, Mexican folklore doesn’t fully explain why the poinsettia is such a feature of Christmas

To discover the rest of the story, we need to transport you to the 19th century United States and introduce you to a man named Joel Roberts Poinsett

Image: Scott Bauer, USDA

2. Joel Roberts Poinsett and The Adoption of The Poinsettia Name

Nearly two-hundred years after the poinsettia’s association with Christmas began in Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett took its festive story to the United States

Image: Wikimedia Commons 

He was also a passionate botanist

Late in 1828, Poinsett was on a diplomatic trip to Mexico when he came across the plant known locally as “Cuetlaxochitl.”

He was captivated by the red leaves and began shipping the unfamiliar blooms back to his home in South Carolina where he had a greenhouse. 

Poinsett began cultivating the plants and gave them to colleagues and friends around Christmas time

News of this beautiful shrub spread to Pennsylvania where nurseryman Robert Buist began to cultivate it

Image: thedailygardener.org 

Buist was the first person to sell the plant using its botanical name “Euphorbia Pulcherrima.”

It wasn’t until 1836 that the brilliant red and green blooms became formerly known as “Poinsettia.”

The plant was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the man who brought it to the United States. 

3. Paul Ecke Sr. and The International Rise of The Poinsettia 

The popularity of the recently renamed poinsettia grew substantially in the early 20th century.

It was at this time that Paul Ecke Snr. entered the story...

Image: thecoastnews.com courtesy of Paul Ecke III

He was the first person to develop plants that could be grown in pots indoors

In 1923, he founded the Ecke Ranch which now provides around 80% of the poinsettia plants that are bought and sold in the United States. 

This is the path that the poinsettia has taken to become the most popular plant sold during the holidays in the United States

In the six weeks leading up to Christmas around 70 million poinsettias are sold in the country. 

And, since 2002, December 12 has been known as National Poinsettia Day

4. Poinsettias in The UK at Christmas 

It’s not only in the United States that poinsettias brighten homes at Christmas time. 

The red and green shrubs are also a familiar site in the United Kingdom (UK). 
During the 1960s, nurserymen like Joseph Spray saw the plants in American literature and began bringing them over from the United States. 

The widespread popularity of poinsettia plants in the UK did not really take hold until the 1980s

Today, their popularity is stronger than ever, especially around Christmas

During the festive season, you can see them lined up along the shelves of nurseries and supermarkets. 

5. Tips for Choosing & Caring for Poinsettias 

Want to make sure your poinsettia keeps its colour for as long as possible? 

We hear you. 

The main attraction of this plant is its vibrant colours which are usually red and green but can be other shades such as white, pink, variegated, and burgundy. 
We’re happy to share some tips to help you choose the right plant and keep it healthy

Never buy a poinsettia that’s close to open or automatic doors as it will have been exposed to damaging UK winds. 

Check the soil before you buy a poinsettia if you can and make sure it’s damp rather than very wet or dry. 

Wrap your poinsettia when you buy it so that it’s protected during the journey home and not exposed to draughts and temperatures below 12 degrees Celsius. 

Don’t overwater your poinsettia as the roots can quickly become waterlogged. 

Check the leaves of the plant regularly as if they are yellowing or falling off this means you are watering too much and/or too often. 

Make sure that the temperature around your poinsettia is around 15 to 22 degrees Celsius. 

Keep your plant out of draughts. 

If you buy the right poinsettia, and care for it well, you’ll have a wonderful display of colourful leaves for Christmas

Heads up…

There’s an array of other beautiful blooms that add a festive touch to your home

The poinsettia is not on its own. 

6. Beautiful Winter Floral Displays with Poinsettias & Other Blooms 

If your poinsettia is starting to die off, you can rescue the brachts that are still looking good and create a colourful floral arrangement

Trim the stems just below the leaves and dip the ends in boiling water for a few seconds. 

Doing this gets rid of the sap. 

Then, place the stems in cold water. 

With enough water and attention, your arrangement should last for as long as two weeks

Looking for a contrast to the poinsettia

No problem. 

There are several blooms that can brighten your Christmas

One of our favourites is the anemone
These striking flowers are in season from October to May

They come in a variety of colours such as white, red, pink, and purple. 

Personally, we love the snow-like colour of the white anemone for the holiday season. 

Other blooms you can use to decorate your home at Christmas are: 

Calla lilies - elegant and graceful blooms that are also known as Arum lilies. 

Roses - a traditional choice throughout the year that can add a touch of romance to your festive decor. 

Berries and evergreens - elements such as pine cones and holly sprigs can bring a Christmas vibe to your home. 

Winter clematis - glorious for its appearance and scent, this plant has bell shaped flowers that look amazing in the garden or as cut blooms. 

Pansies - perfect for adding a pop of colour to your seasonal celebrations. 

Snowdrops - who doesn’t love the pure white beauty of snowdrops in the winter months? 

There’s certainly no lack of choice when it comes to winter flowers for decorating your home at Christmas

Need more inspiration? 

Take a look at our blog post about flowers for winter weddings. 

It gives you an insight into what flowers are in season around Christmas time

Winter Weddings: What Flowers Are In Season?

7. Learn to Decorate Like a Pro!


At Blooming Haus our corporate and event festive transformations are already underway!

We absolutely adore this time of year.

To add to the magic we're hosting a seasonal Christmas masterclass with festive wreath-making while sharing our pro tips on how to tablescape and decorate like a complete pro.

LEARN MORE


It's not to be missed and spaces are filling up fast.

To keep up with our festive arrangements for luxury businesses in and around London don't forget to follow us on Instagram

You can also take a look at our online shop for further inspiration. 

For help with floral design at Christmas and throughout the year contact us at: 

Corporate & Events: business@bloominghaus.com 
Weddings & General Queries: contact@bloominghaus.com

Or call us on 020 3389 9609

We’d also like to hear your Christmas flower stories and comments. 

Why do you love poinsettias and which other blooms are your favourites? 

Pop a note in the comments. 

We look forward to hearing from you.
Don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments section, we would love to hear from you!

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