Universal Symbol of Christmas

The sign of a true Christmas floral display is the bright red and green foliage of the much-loved poinsettia, a native of Mexico whose jolly colors secured it as the universal symbol of the December holiday.

The poinsettia’s place in American history dates back to 1828 when, according to, Joel R. Poinsett (an American botanist, physician and Minister to Mexico) sent cuttings of the plant to his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. With their color scheme matching the bright green and red of the holiday season, greenhouses began selling the plants as early as 1830. They were named “poinsettias” after Poinsett and in 1870, stores in New York began selling them in December. It took just 30 years for them to become a staple of Christmas in America.

Every year since the mid-1800s, the United States has honored Joel R. Poinsett and the poinsettia on the unofficial National Poinsettia Day, Dec. 12. Poinsett passed away Dec. 12, 1851. It wasn’t until July 2002 that the House of Representatives opted to officially designate Dec. 12 for poinsettias by passing a resolution honoring the late Paul Ecke Jr. (considered the father of the poinsettia industry), whose family has long been recognized as the leading producer of the plant in the United States.

Ironically, Dec. 12 also includes a celebration of poinsettias in modern day Mexico. La Flor de la Nochebuena (“Flower of the Holy Night”) is displayed in celebration of Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe). Use of the poinsettia to celebrate Christmas in Mexico dates back to the 17th century.

So if you’re stuck on how to add that final special touch to your holiday display (or you’re looking for a quick gift for your loved one), the poinsettia is the perfect touch of classic Christmas.