Poinsettia plants are often thrown away and replaced each year. However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the colorful flower. They can be kept happy for a really long time, blooming over and over – if you know how to care for poinsettias properly!
Additionally, poinsettias can be found in a range of colors including cream and pink. They were traditionally used by the Aztecs in Central America for medicinal purposes and have become a staple of seasonal decoration.
When kept alive for long enough the poinsettia plant can reach quite impressive sizes and create a striking impression. I’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to care for poinsettias, and how to get it to re-bloom the following season – so let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- Is Indirect Light Best?
- How to Water Poinsettias?
- Are High Temperatures Ideal?
- Is Feeding Necessary?
- How Does Flowering Work?
- Do They Cope With High Humidity?
- Can You Put a Poinsettia In a Vase?
- What Are Some Problems With Poinsettia?
- Caring for Poinsettias
- Buying Poinsettias
- Getting the Most Out of Your Poinsettias
Is Indirect Light Best?
Poinsettias need bright, indirect light. This means that they should be near a south-facing window but not directly next to a light source.
East-facing windows are also suitable, just place them a little bit closer and they will appreciate the morning sun. If you find that the light is strong enough to cast a distinct shadow, it’s probably too bright.
You’ll know if they get too much light because the flowers and leaves will be crisp and potentially have brown patches where they’ve been sunburnt. If you find that they are growing slowly or seem pale and limp that’s a sign that the poinsettias need more light than they are currently getting.
How to Water Poinsettias?
As with many plants, it’s important to strike a proper balance. Too much water will lead to root rot which is fatal, too little and it’ll lose its leaves.
To know when to water, lift the pot up and see how it feels. If the pot feels lighter than usual, and the soil looks dry then it’s probably time to water.
If you keep your poinsettia super warm or near a radiator that could mean watering everyday. A plant kept near a radiator will need extra water and humidity as the heating dries out the air. If your poinsettia goes crispy it would be better to move it away from a radiator.
I personally recommend bottom watering.You probably only need to do this once a week, but again it depends on the conditions you keep the plant in. Bottom watering helps to saturate the soil more evenly.
To bottom water effectively run some tepid water (or allow the water to stand and come to room temperature before watering) in a sink, bath, tub or anything similar. Leave the plants in for twenty minutes or so to drink as much water as they want. Lift the plants out of the water and hold them up allowing extra water to drain away before returning them to their regular location.
Use room temperature water for your poinsettia plants – if you ever see a website recommending using an ice cube to water plants RUN! Super cold or hot water will shock the plant and probably kill it.
If in doubt always stay on the drier side – you can always water more but you can’t fix overwatering.
Are High Temperatures Ideal?
Poinsettias are best suited for bedrooms and living rooms. If possible try to keep them away from doorways and fireplaces, but if you do keep them near a warm draft, accommodate the change with a humidifier and extra water.
Remember, these plants are native to Mexico so the best care for them is to replicate their natural environment.
Is Feeding Necessary?
I’d recommend fertilizing your poinsettia plants with a liquid feed according to the packet instructions. I like the houseplant focus one best. Poinsettias will benefit from a high potassium fertilizer, you can use tomato feed too!
Only start fertilizing the poinsettia plant once they are no longer in bloom, unless you are only keeping them for the holiday season. If you want to keep them long term then start fertilizing once the colorful bracts have faded away.
How Does Flowering Work?
It can be a little tricky to get poinsettias to re-flower after the first Christmas but here are the main tips that can help:
Remove any dying, diseased or fading parts of the leaves or flowers. These are stealing energy from the potential new blooms.
Around April or May it’s time to prune. Cut the stems back around 4inches (10cm) and repot the plant into a larger container. Feed your poinsettias every few weeks from this point on until the end of active growth season (basically when it gets chilly out). Also in April time, begin to decrease how much water the poinsettia is receiving, do it gradually in order to avoid shocking the plant.
Around summer time, ideally July, give the poinsettia another prune, removing about an inch (2-3cm). I’d also recommend another prune in early autumn, trimming a few inches to promote side branching. Always make sure that when you prune you leave a few leaves on each shoot.
When winter begins to show its face, it’s important to alert the plant that short days are coming. To do this, the plant will need 12 hours of bright daylight followed by 12 hours of darkness. This encourages the poinsettia flowers to bloom.
Any exposure to light affects the internal clock of the plant and can delay the flowering process.
Do They Cope With High Humidity?
Poinsettias love a more humid environment – tons of people recommend misting but I strongly advise that you do not do this. Create a humid environment using a humidifier if need be, you check out our guide for finding the best one here – 10 best humidifiers for plants.
Misting encourages pests and sunburn by creating pools of stagnant water – I highly recommend you do not let any water sit in your plant or pot.
Alternatively, if you want to boost humidity in your home without spending any money on a humidifier there’s a few DIY tricks. Try grouping plants together – plants lose moisture in their leaves, so by grouping many plants together they create a more humid microclimate.
Can You Put a Poinsettia In a Vase?
As well as being grown as houseplants, poinsettias can also be displayed as flowers in a vase. Luckily, I know a few tricks to make poinsettia flowers last longer.
After cutting your poinsettia stem, immediately place the stem into a cup of hot water, around 20 seconds of this treatment seals in the sap. Then, dip into a cup of cold water for 10 seconds. This trick can help your poinsettia flowers last up to two weeks.
Be careful, the milky sap in the stems of the poinsettia can cause skin and eye irritation.
What Are Some Problems With Poinsettia?
Luckily, poinsettia plants don’t tend to get pests or disease.
The most common issue when caring for these Christmas plants is damage from the cold. If you notice that the poinsettia plants are dropping leaves as soon as you bring the plant home, it’s likely due to the conditions that the plant was stored in.
However, if the leaf drop starts later on then it might be due to temperature, lighting or humidity issues. Investigate the soil, if you suspect you might have under or over watered the poinsettia, then the plant has a chance. Ensuring the conditions are ideal at home (warm, indirect light, humid) can stop the leaf drop, provided that it is not due to cold shock from before you bought it.
Sometimes poinsettias can succumb to gray mold or mealybug. Both of these are signs that you are overwatering, so just cut back on watering times and use some neem oil and hopefully the plant should be right as rain in no time.
Here’s how to use neem oil as a houseplant pesticide:
- Use a bottom bud or swab to apply the neem oil.
- Start by swiping over all leaves and stems, being extra thorough where you see any actual bugs or eggs.
- Repeat this daily until you’ve seen no bugs for a few weeks (which is how long it takes for them to hatch).
If neem oil isn’t cutting it as the bugs are somehow still surviving then it’s time to move onto isopropyl alcohol. I recommend using isopropyl alcohol in two ways; topical and while watering. Apply to affected areas using a swab (topically) as needed. I would also suggest that you add a small amount to your watering can while watering your poinsettia plants, this helps to kill any eggs that have been living in the soil as well as helping to fix root rot.
Caring for Poinsettias
Poinsettias, also known as the red Christmas flower or Euphorbia pulcherrima are a beautiful plant that can be grown indoors as a houseplant all year round. They are native to Mexico and so thrive in bright, indirect light with warm, humid temperatures.
Here’s some key information when caring for a poinsettia:
The Euphorbia genus (the group of plants in which poinsettias belong) comprises around 2,100 species all with very different needs. Most often, Euphorbia as a label will be referring to an African Milk cactus. This plant is totally different from a poinsettia and needs very different care. Just make sure when researching, or buying plants that you are aware of the common name and the latin name.
It’s super easy to mix them up when researching. In fact, there are so many different plants in this genus as it is the fourth largest genus of flowering plants.
Since they’re so popular as a seasonal decoration, it’s pretty easy to find poinsettia flowers in all sorts of shops. This is great for convenience but can also mean they’re not in the best condition. If possible, I’d recommend wrapping them up for the journey home from the shop so you can avoid any cold which can be fatal for a poinsettia.
The main thing to look out for is wilting leaves.When it comes to poinsettia care this is actually one of the most important things to know. Wilting leaves are a sure fire sign that the plant is on its way out, often indicating that the plant has not been kept warm enough. Poinsettias that are on sale near a door or window often die quickly because of the draught.
Exposure to temperatures below 54ºF/ 12ºC can seriously damage the flowers.
It’s also worth checking the soil; if it’s soaking wet or totally dry it’s probably not receiving great care and therefore might not last much longer.
A quick additional tip: the colorful bracts (which are the actual flowers) are a great indicator of the health of the plant. If the bracts are intact and tight, the quality of the plant is likely good.
Getting the Most Out of Your Poinsettias
All in all, Poinsettia care is just like any other tropical plant, but with extra emphasis on how to get the flowers to bloom again.
Keep the plants warm and humid and they should be just fine. With some pruning and feeding across the active growth season you should find your poinsettia blooms once again when winter comes.
Once you’ve mastered the care of your first poinsettia try looking for specific cultivars and more rare colors to expand your collection. Here’s a look at some less common poinsettias to collect.
Poinsettia Power for Life!
Poinsettias – like the Christmas version of summer sunflowers. If you’re looking for more top notch inspiration, click one of the articles below! Or go straight to the source with our full list of how-to-houseplant guides. Then get started growing your own with all the necessary gear for a successful houseplant home.
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