Poinsettia Flower Meaning & Symbolism | Teleflora Skip to main content Skip to main menu Skip to Footer

Meaning & Symbolism of Poinsettias

What is the meaning of poinsettias? Also known as the Christmas Star and Christmas Flower, it's said that poinsettias’ association with Christmas comes from a Mexican legend. The story goes that a child, with no means for a grander gift, gathered humble weeds from the side of the road to place at the church alter on Christmas Eve. As the congregation witnessed a Christmas miracle, the weeds turned into brilliant red and green flowers.

Named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, first United States ambassador to Mexico and the amateur botanist who introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825, the poinsettia is also known as Mexican Flame Leaf, Winter Rose, Noche Buena and, in Turkey, Atakurk's Flower, because it was the favorite flower of Atakurk, the founder of modern Turkey.

While considered by the ancient Aztecs to be symbols of purity, in today's language of flowers, red, white or pink poinsettias, the December birth flower, symbolize good cheer and success and are said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.

Frequently Asked Questions About Poinsettias

1. Are Poinsettias Poisonous? A common misconception about poinsettias is that they're poisonous to young children or pets, but while they are mildly toxic, rarely are they fatal. The rumor is largely based on the plant's milky sap, which has been known to irritate people's skin, especially if they have a latex allergy. Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae family of plants, many of which release a similar sap, but rest assured, parents – studies have shown that it isn't poisonous. Poinsettias shouldn't be eaten, though, because they'll likely cause an upset stomach, so do your best to keep them away from young children and pets.

2. Do Poinsettias Make Good Gifts? Poinsettias are the No. 1 best-selling potted flowering plant in the U.S., with red poinsettias far outselling white and other varieties, so they are great gifts! Not surprisingly, the majority of the plant's abundant sales happen during the six weeks before Christmas. You can gift a poinsettia on its own, or include it in a beautiful Christmas basket with other seasonal flowers.

3. How to Care for a Poinsettia? A poinsettia doesn’t take a whole lot of maintenance to be happy. However, it’s pretty picky about the amount of water it receives. Keep the soil evenly moist by thoroughly watering it and checking the soil regularly to ensure it’s not still moist when you water it again. If your poinsettia is potted in a planter with a drainage hole – it should be – it’s important to empty the tray beneath it once the plant has drained. It’s not good for the plant to sit in that stagnant water. If you’re displaying the plant in the foil-wrapped pot that it came in, simply poke a few holes in the bottom and place the pot in a tray so it can drain. Don’t fertilize the plant while there are still flowers blooming. If you plan to keep the plant in hopes of it blossoming again next year, you can fertilize it once all of the petals have dropped.

4. Where Should You Place a Poinsettia? While a poinsettia is pretty resilient, there are places that are better for the plant than others. For example, though the poinsettia may do alright on your desk at work, it’ll thrive much better near a window that is in bright, but indirect light. It’s also important to put them in an area that doesn’t shift much in temperature. For example, a cold windowsill, a warm radiator or heat vent can all damage the leaves and cause them to fall off. Though these plants are at their peak in the wintertime, they’re very sensitive to cold air. On the trek from the store to your home, make sure the plant is as covered as possible, guarding it from the winter air. This is why these plants are all wrapped up when they’re delivered to you.

View more on our Flower Type Meaning Page and Facts About Poinsettias.