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Poinsettia Day: The history behind the colourful plant

Some members of the Uniplumo production team. Photo: Uniplumo.

Made popular in the US but native to Mexico, the red-starred plant symbolises the Christmas spirit for many.



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18 December 2019

Poinsettia Day is celebrated every year on December 12 to mark the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett.

Poinsett was an American botanist and the first US Minister to Mexico. In the 1820’s, Poinsett sent clippings of the Poinsettia plant, native to Mexico, back to his hometown of Charlestown, South Carolina.

The flowers grew well in Poinsett’s greenhouse but the plant didn’t take off in the US until Paul Ecke Jr. discovered a grafting technique which enabled the seedlings to branch.

Originally selling the plant on roadsides, Ecke Jr. began to ship and market the plant, leading to its popularity today.

The Christmas connection

As mentioned, the Poinsettia plant is native to Mexico, and the connection to Christmas dates back to the 16th/17th-century when, legend states, a little girl who was upset that she had nothing to honour the baby Jesus with, was visited by an angel who told her that any gift given with love is a wonderful gift – some accounts say this was told to her by her cousin.

The girl gathered some weeds and laid them around the manger. The weeds then miraculously transformed into the red-starred flower we know as Poinsettia.

In Mexico, the flower is known as La Flor de la Nochebuena – Flower of the Holy Night – but its first use in Mexico dates back to the Aztecs.

The Aztecs used the poinsettia in their mid-winter celebrations, the leaves for dye, and the sap to cure fevers.


A little closer to home in Ireland, Sean Grimes and his production team at Uniplumo Ltd – part of Irish-owned Total Produce Plc – one of Ireland’s leading Poinsettia growers with 250,000 Bord Bia Quality Assured Poinsettias for the domestic Irish market this year, wished all Growtrade readers a very happy International Poinsettia Day for 2019, and for many years to come.

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