Poinsettias are sub-tropical plants native to Mexico and Central America. Although the brightest parts of the plants look like flowers, the most striking colors come from the upper leaves of the plant, called bracts. Poinsettia flowers are actually quite small, and grow in the center of each leaf bunch.
Ancient Aztecs called poinsettias “cuetlaxochitl.” They used the sap of the plant to make a medicine to treat fevers, and the bracts to make a purple dye. Due to its bright coloring, the Aztecs viewed the poinsettia as a symbol of purity.
Today poinsettias commonly serve as a symbol of Christmas. They are the most popular holiday plant, which is convenient because they naturally bloom during the festive season.
Mexican poinsettias are typically bright red, but poinsettias also bloom in other colors such as cream, lemon, peach, pink, and white and gold splashed leaves.