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In The Garden

How to Care for Your Poinsettia

A variety of poinsettia plants at Poinsettia Field Day in a Raulston Arboretum greenhouse. Play Video

Nothing says winter holiday like this tropical beauty. How’s that for irony? Originally grown by the Aztecs, poinsettias had quite the journey to becoming the unofficial flower of the holiday season, and a cornerstone of North Carolina’s floriculture industry.

It was 17th century Franciscan priests who first linked poinsettias to the holidays — bless you, Fathers! — featuring the flowers in the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre nativity procession. But their common name is attributed to Joel Poinsett, the United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the poinsettia to the U.S. in 1825.

North Carolina is No. 2 in the nation for poinsettia production, growing more than 4.5 million poinsettias each year.

Since then, a variety of vibrant poinsettias — with colors including reds, pinks, purples, yellows and more — have become seasonal staples in homes across the country each winter. These days, the U.S. poinsettia industry has grown to over $150 million annually, with North Carolina producing one of every 10 poinsettia plant grown in the country.

In this Homegrown segment, join Ingram McCall from NC State’s horticultural science department as she talks about caring for poinsettias in your home.

Despite their reputation as the most festive of wintertime flowers, poinsettias are a tropical plant that only thrive in temperatures higher than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (if you don’t believe us, watch Frosty the Snowman). While they’re often associated with Christmas, poinsettias can sustain their bright blooms into the spring if properly cared for.

As you set out to pick the perfect poinsettias for your home this holiday, make sure you take a look at this NC State Extension guide for how to select and care for a fresh poinsettia.

Are Poinsettias Dangerous to Pets or People?

Great news for anyone who believed for years that poinsettias could harm our pets — poinsettias are NOT poisonous. They’re also not very tasty and could cause an upset stomach from eating a strange new food, but this myth, whose origin can be traced back to more than 100 years ago in Hawaii, has been debunked by science many times.

In fact, research from Ohio State dating as far back as 1971 confirmed that poinsettias are not toxic. So now that we’ve set the record straight, and your little ones (two- or four-legged) are not at risk from the beautiful flowers, go ahead and fill the house!

Stocking Stuffers

Discover how NC State is helping the poinsettia industry to prosper in North Carolina in the video below:

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