Euphorbia pulcherrima

Common Name: poinsettia 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Native Range: Western Mexico
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 3.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Yellow flowers with red bracts
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Air Pollution


Place potted plants in a bright area away from cold air (like doors) and cold drafts. Otherwise, indoor household temperatures are just fine. Poinsettia plants like to be kept on the dry side. Water as often as needed, but allow soil surface to dry before watering again, then soak the soil. Be certain all excess water is drained away and discarded. Fertilizer is not necessary if your poinsettia is a Christmas holiday plant.

If kept throughout the winter, after blooming reduce the amount of water and allow the plant to go dormant. Move the plant to a cooler position but not below 50°F. You can begin fertilizing in the spring.

If you wish to grow your poinsettia for the next Christmas, cut back your plant in spring (April is a good month) and start fertilizing. Outside of Zones 9–11, place your plant outdoors in an eastern sun or general shade after you have reliable temperatures above about 60°F. You can also repot at this time. Keep the plant pinched all summer to produce the main branches you want with plenty of good growing tips (these tips are what will produce color). As fall approaches, bring your plant indoors to a bright location when temperatures threaten to go below 60°F. To initiate color change, starting the end of September or the beginning of October, place your poinsettia in complete darkness a minimum of 12 hours per day. (Shield the plant from any light from 5:00 PM until morning light.) During the day, provide as much bright light as possible. Continue watering and fertilizing during this period. When strong color appears in the bracts, it is no longer necessary to put the plant in darkness at night. If all of the requirements have been met, you should see color by the middle of November.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly called poinsettia, is a scraggly, deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub or small tree native to the Pacific slope region of Mexico and Guatemala where it is found in coastal and mid-elevation, seasonally dry tropical forests. Mature plants will reach up to 12' with an 8' spread. Inconspicuous yellow flowers are surrounded by large brilliant red floral bracts (modified leaves) in winter through spring. Poinsettias are available commercially in a range of colors including shades of red, pink, white, and even peachy-orange. Other colors including blue and purple are achieved by spraying plants with light-colored bracts (typically white or light pink) with dyes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, poinsettia plants are not highly poisonous. A Ohio State University study showed that a 50 pound child could eat 500 bracts and might have a slight stomach ache. However, the white sap can have allergic properties, especially for people who have latex allergies.

Genus name probably honors Euphorbus, physician to the King of Mauretania.

Specific epithet means "beautiful", "pretty", or "fair".

The common name of poinsettia recognizes Joel R. Poinsette (1775-1851) a gardener, botanist and diplomat from South Carolina who was ambassador to Mexico in 1824. He brought the plant back to South Carolina.


Problems may include whitefly, mealybugs, red spider mites and scale. Root or stem rots can also occur if overwatered. Poinsettia plants are extremely brittle. Handle with care so as not to snap branches.


Tropical accent or large container specimen where hardy. Indoor potted plant in colder climates.