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common name: Poinsettia, Christmas flower, Lobster Flower, Flame-leaf Flower, flor de la noche buena
synonyms: Poinsettia pulcherrima
perennial, evergreen, semi-evergreen
red & green
poisonous or irritant
full sun, part shade
preferred soil pH: neutral-acid
minimum temp: 10°C
USDA zone: 10 to 11
Normally seen as a small houseplant, but in the wild makes a large bushy, evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub. Well known for the colourful bracts that surround the insignificant yellow flowers in winter. The bracts are usually bright red, but there also white, cream, pink and bicoloured forms.
Full sun or bright part shade, with flowering brought on by short day-length. Moist, free draining compost which should be allowed to become drier during the dormancy period after flowering. Needs consistently warm temperatures, slightly cooler during dormancy, but plants will suffer badly if subjected to cold.
Very widely cultivated as a winter house plant and traditional Christmas gift.
The name Poinsettia is from Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was U.S. ambassador to Mexico in the 1820's and also interested in botany.
Cultivated by the Aztecs, who called it Cuetlayochitl, "mortal flower that perishes and withers", the red colour being symbolic of blood sacrifice.
Not as poisonous as many other Euphorbia, but the milky sap can cause skin irritation.