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Dec. 3, 2021
By Rebekah HallU of A System Division of Agriculture
LITTLE ROCK — The vibrant red, green and white foliage and flowers of the poinsettia
plant make it a favorite gift and decoration during the holiday season and beyond.
The festive plant also has a special connection to Arkansas history: the state’s Poinsett
County and the poinsettia plant both derive their names from Joel Roberts Poinsett,
a U.S. Congressman and botanist from South Carolina. Poinsett first brought clippings
of the poinsettia plant to the United States from its native Mexico in the early 1800s.
Poinsett served as secretary of war under President Martin Van Buren, and though he
never visited Arkansas, Poinsett was a friend of Arkansas Congressman Archibald Yell.
The poinsettia’s association with the holiday season is in part due to the plant’s
geographical home. Native to southern Mexico, poinsettias are in bloom during this
time of year.
“Poinsettia flower buds are initiated as our nights naturally get longer in the fall,”
said Berni Kurz, extension consumer horticulture educator for the University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture. “This is a phototropic response, and we call plants
that respond to long nights ‘short day’ plants.”
The poinsettia, with its colorful leaves and bright flowers, has long been included
in Mexican celebrations of Christmas. The plant’s popularity in the United States
took hold in the 1960s, when the Ecke family – who owned poinsettia nurseries in California
– successfully branded poinsettias as the Christmas flower by sending free plants
to television studios for their holiday specials, including those of Bob Hope and
“The Tonight Show.” With plenty of screen time during Christmas programming, poinsettias
then became a holiday staple.
The poinsettia plant’s beauty can be maintained throughout the year with a bit of
care and attention from growers — read on to learn how to care for the plant during
and after the holidays:
In the days just before Thanksgiving, you can stop the dark periods, reduce the amount
of water and fertilizer used, and place your poinsettia in a sunny spot that receives
at least six hours of direct light.
To learn more about poinsettias, check out this Plant of the Week entry.
You can also watch this video about different color varieties of the poinsettia.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit our about page. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension.
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website.
Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Rebekah HallCooperative Extension ServiceDepartment of Communicationsrkhall@uada.edu