Sure, Poinsettias are still available in the familiar red and green color, but new varieties make your Grandma’s poinsettias seem “Old Fashioned”.

Each year more than 100 million Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in every size, shape, and color are sold in more than 40 countries around the world. The plant, a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, is a native of Central America and Mexico.

Love them or hate them, the new colors and styles of the old stand by Christmas flower, the Poinsettia are a big hit with consumers.

The so called “novelty varieties” of Poinsettias have become very popular in the last few years. Unlike the dyed leaf, painted or glued and glittered Poinsettias these plants are really bred for the colors and leaf shapes you see. But, of course, the prices of these plants reflect that. You can expect to pay at least $20 or more depending on the size of the plant.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

The poinsettia plant is often considered deadly. That’s wrong. Turns out the poisonous myth is based on a child back in 1919 who was found dead next to wild poinsettia plants and doctors then claimed it due to “poinsettia poisoning”. Research has proven that to be false, but the sticky latex sap which resembles Elmer’s glue can be an irritant (it contains chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and soap-like saponins). Although the plant is not poisonous, it’s not tasty either, so children or pets would not likely eat very many leaves after a quick taste test.

Common signs of Poinsettia ingestion in pets:

  • Drooling
  • Licking lips
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin irritation (including redness, swelling, and itchiness)
  • Eye irritation

Plant Facts:

Common Name:  Poinsettia

Botanical Name:   Euphorbiapulcherrima

Family:  Euphorbiaceae

Plant Type:  Evergreen shrub

Origin: Central America and Mexico

Zones: 9 – 11

Height:  12′

Rate of Growth: Fast

Salt Tolerance: None

Soil Requirements:  Most any well drained soil

Water Requirements: Moderately drought tolerant, but look better and hold leaves longer with an adequate supply of water

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly

Light Requirements: Full sun

Form:  Upright to sprawling shrub

Leaves:  Simple, alternate, ovate to fiddle-shaped, 7″ long, entire or lobed, prominent veins, milky sap.

Flowers: Inconspicuous yellow and green flowers known as cyathia surrounded by colored bracts — colors run from bright to blood red, white, vermillion, apricot, salmon, lemon-yellow, pink, pink and white, marbled, spotted, and variegated.  

Fruits: 3-celled capsule

Pests or diseases:  Mites, scale, thrips, caterpillars, root rot

Uses:  Specimen plant

Bad Habits: Must have a period of dark rest before leaves will change in winter. Despite the common belief to the contrary, Poinsettias are not poisonous.

Cost:  $$ — Very reasonable

Propagation:  Cuttings