What’s red in winter?

Poinsettias surround the display of natural resources at the U.S. Botanic Garden, depicting the U.S. National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Where were you thinking? I was thinking about the red-flowered plant called the poinsettia, typically used as a Christmas plant?

The poinsettia is native to the tropical forest of the pacific coast of southern Mexico.  There it grows as a large shrub reaching up to 30 feet in height. It blooms in late fall after the rainy season ends.    

Photo of information poster at the U.S. Botanic Garden and Conservatory in Washington, D.C.

The plant’s common name refers back to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. minister to Mexico.  He sent seeds and samples of the plant back to the U.S.A. back in the 1820s.  (Information obtained from the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.)

During the 1800s the poinsettia was a greenhouse curiosity often used as a short-lived, but distinctive, red cut flower.  It wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s that additional colors were discovered and brought into the trade 

In the 1960s the introduction of varieties that produced bushy, compact plants led to mass production and marketing. 

Intentional radiation exposure of the poinsettia tissue in the 1980s resulted in mutations and mixture of color as well as new growth forms we have today. 

There are currently more than 100 new cultivars in development.  I still like the old-fashioned red color during the winter though. 

Do you have a poinsettia?  Here are a few tips to care for the plant beyond the winter season, according to HGTV.  https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/poinsettia-care-through-winter-and-beyond

Warm and Bright: It may seem strange due to their holiday connotations, but poinsettias are tropical plants. Provide lots of sunlight — a sunny window with east, west, or southern exposure is best. Also try to keep the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees F during the day, keeping in mind that the area around a drafty window can be quite a bit cooler than the rest of the room. If your plant’s leaves are touching a cold window, they may drop off. At night, poinsettias like a slightly lower temperature (55 – 60 degrees F), but avoid drastic drops in temperatures.

Hydrated and Humid: Make sure to water the poinsettia whenever the surface of the soil feels dry. Give the plant a good watering, but don’t flood or soak it.  Gravel in the bottom of the pot will help keep the roots dry. If your home is dry during the winter months, a humidifier or plant mister can help your plant stay hydrated.

Prevent Leaf Loss: If your plant starts to lose leaves, there are a few likely culprits: is the plant resting against a cold window or near a draft? Is it too warm or dry in the room? Is the plant thirsty?

With correct care, poinsettias can be encouraged to re-bloom next holiday, but it’s a touchy and time-consuming process that not all poinsettia fans are prepared for. Choosing the right poinsettia for a long-term commitment and carefully maintaining it after Christmas is over can help.

Blessings and love along the way,


13 thoughts on “What’s red in winter?

  1. Poinsettias are exotic. I am currently holidaying in Sikkim, India and here they grow wild on the streets making the mountain roads very attractive. Your post with so much info. On them came at the right time. Thank you.

  2. Poinsettia’s are beautiful as is your post. We have an abundance of the flower and poinsettia trees here in Florida, only fair since we basically have no real winter season. Thank you for the lovely article.

  3. Thank you for telling us about the origin of Poinsettia, quite exotic flower by all accounts.
    I have one at home now- a red one – . In Sweden we call them Christmas Rose.
    Here in U.K . they are big sellers at Christmas too although called Poinsettia.

    Such a bright and happy flower


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