Wild poinsettias

I love looking at all the poinsettia colors during the holidays. They certainly make a statement and it’s too bad that it takes a lot of effort to keep them growing and blooming. Christmas poinsettias are native to Southern Mexico and have a tough time in northern climates. 

Julie Marcus is a senior horticulturist with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center at the University of Texas. She says wild poinsettias are native to the United States and grow over much of the country as a summer annual. It’s not as showy as the Christmas poinsettia, but has green leaves, or bracts, with red coloring near the base of their leaves. The tiny flowers are small and clustered in the centers of the bracts.

"It grows in the warmer climates here, it grows in full sun, but it also will tolerate light shade," says Marcus. "It gets about 1’-3’ tall, you sow it from seed, and you would sow it once the soil has warmed up, so after all danger of frost. Once it comes up and gets established it re-seeds readily."

Marcus says wild poinsettias don’t do well in containers or like being inside. They thrive in open woods, floodplains, and disturbed areas. They also prefer to hang out in your garden as a mass bedding plant.

"What we do here is we use it kind of what we call as a “filler plant” so we sow it between our spring-summer perennials," she says. "I move it around a little bit when it first comes up because it’ll come up pretty thick."

Wild poinsettias provide habitat and nourishment for hummingbirds and a wide range of pollinators. Since the plant is self-seeding, you can collect them from the seedpods and save them for next year.