Poinsettia Meaning: Mexican Christmas Flower

Poinsettia Flower Meaning

Poinsettia meaning for the ancient Aztecs was purity. For them, the poinsettia was the “skinflower.” The plant was used to produce red dye and also medicinally to reduce fevers. Today, poinsettias are the most easily recognized flower symbolic of Christmas.

Poinsettia Meaning and Christmas

Poinsettia are also known as the “Christmas flower” and “Mexican flame leaf.” According to a Mexican legend, one day near Christmas a child who was too poor to buy a present for the Christ child picked a bouquet of weeds from the side of the road. When the child reached the church, the plant miraculously blossomed into beautiful red and green flowers.

Poinsettia Meaning in Christianity

Beginning in the 17th century, monks in Mexico included the plant in their Christmas celebrations. Due to their association with Christmas, poinsettia have also come to mean good cheer and mirth. Poinsettia are also considered to be the flower for the month of December. Today in the United States, December 12th is Poinsettia Day. 

Poinsettia Meaning and Name Origin

Poinsettias are named after Dr. Joel R. Poinsett, a US ambassador to Mexico who introduced the plant to the United States. Recent research has shown that poinsettias are not poisonous, as they were long believed to be.

Poinsettia Marketing and Development

The American monopoly of the poinsettia market began in the early 1900s. Albert Ecke moved from Germany and began selling the plant from street stands. At the time, poinsettias were more like a weedy bush, lacking in fullness and definition.

Poinsettia Meaning

Read more about red flower color meaning.

His son developed a grafting technique for a fuller, more attractive plant. In the next generation, Albert’s grandson began to promote the association between poinsettias and the Christmas holidays. He sent free plants to television stations to display from Thanksgiving to Christmas and appeared on programs like The Tonight Show and The Bob Hope Show to promote the poinsettia.

In the 1990s, other researchers developed their own techniques for producing beautiful poinsettias. However, the Ecke family still controlled the majority of all poinsettia propagation and sales. The bright petals of poinsettias are actually leaves or bracts, and the flowers themselves are very small and yellow. Poinsettias can grow to a height of 16 feet and thrive in climates where the temperature remains between 50F and 70F degrees.

Additional Poinsettia Meaning and Colors

The Mexican poinsettia is bright red, but poinsettias also come in cream, yellow, pink and peach. The different colors do not carry their own meanings. In Spain, poinsettia are associated with Easter, likely a reference to the wounds of Christ. In Peru and Chile, the flower is known as the Crown of the Andes.

Kathleen Karlsen Book Author

Kathleen Karlsen

Author of Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine

The information in this article has been excerpted from the book Flower Symbols: The Language of Love by Kathleen Karlsen. This book includes ancient and modern flower meanings and folklore about the world’s most beloved flowers. Buy one for a flower lover in your life. Learn to “say it with flowers” for any occasion! 

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