The poinsettia comes from Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs, who called it "Cuetlaxochitl," used the flower in medicine and dyes. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Christian priests began using it in religious rituals.
In 1825, the poinsettia came to the United States. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, saw the flower during a botanical expedition in that country and sent cuttings back to his native South Carolina. Because of this, the flower came to be called the poinsettia. However, its greatest boost in popularity came in the early 20th century, when the Ecke family of southern California began to sell the flowers on a large scale to all parts of the United States.