San Diego County: Home of the Poinsettia

When it comes to the Christmas flower, San Diego is the capital

Poinsettias in greenhouse
••• John Warden / Getty Images

It's become as much a symbol of the holiday season as the Christmas tree and Santa Claus, but it might surprise you to know that the poinsettia that you decorate your home or office with most likely got its start right here in San Diego County.

80% of All Poinsettias Come From Encinitas

According to the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, California, 80 percent of all flowering poinsettias in the world get their start in the greenhouses on this coastal city just north of San Diego.

The Ecke Ranch ships several million vegetative cuttings to growers in over 50 countries, and finishes thousands of potted flowering plants for Christmas, sold to wholesale and retail florist outlets in California, Arizona and Nevada. In fact, the poinsettia is arguably the most popular potted plant in the world today.

All About Poinsettias

A native of Mexico, the poinsettia had been introduced into the United States in the early 1800s by its namesake, Joel Roberts Poinsett. The poinsettia's yearly cycle of blooming during the winter, near the holiday season, gave Paul Ecke the notion that this would make an ideal official holiday flower. Over the years, Ecke's, and later, his son Paul Jr.'s, tireless cultivation and promotion of the flower grew the popularity of the flower into the holiday symbol that it has become today.

Today, the Paul Ecke Ranch cultivates a wide variety of poinsettias that produce a variety of blooms and an array of different colors.

Along with the traditional crimson red, poinsettias now come in pink, white, coral, salmon, and a number of different shades of red.

By the way, the beautifully colored petals really aren't flower petals at all, but actually leaf-like bracts. The yellow centers are the actual flowers! In addition, The widespread belief that poinsettias are poisonous is a misconception.

Studies conducted by The Ohio State University in cooperation with the Society of American Florists concluded that no toxicity was evident at experimental ingestion levels far exceeding those likely to occur in a home environment. In fact, in 1992, the poinsettia was included on the list of houseplants most helpful in removing pollutants from indoor air. So, not only is the poinsettia a safe and beautiful addition to your holiday decor, it can even help keep your indoor air clean!