Care Tips for Poinsettias

posted in: Gardening | 32
Here are my care tips for Poinsettias. Are you buying a Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) for this Christmas season? Or have you given up after a few years of unsuccessful purchases? Those winter flowering plants might look good in the shop …that is until you get them home.
  • Does your plant start to develop yellow leaves?
  • Each morning do you pick up the leaves its dropped during the night? So by 25th December its just a few red bracts at the top and nothing but a lonely green stem below .
  • Do you quickly dispose of the plant in the compost bin before New Year?

Well if your plant suffers from these symptoms above then you are in good company!

 poinsettia houseplant
There are many things that can go wrong with a Poinsettia. In fact some of those might not even be down to your aftercare. The damage could have been done before you even purchased it!
I’ve nurtured  tens of 1000’s of these plants over many years professionally. So hopefully the following information will be useful. This post might be long but it’s concise. Consequently it should help you determine what you have been doing wrong with your poinsettia. And as a result help you to grow these fussy lovely plants.

Care Tips for Poinsettias

British or European?

If you live in the UK firstly try to find out if the poinsettias being sold have been grown in Europe or from Britain. The British ones have been grown in our light levels. They probably have had less stress in transportation mostly likely being delivered from a nursery that isn’t too far away.
The European ones are sent from large greenhouses to packing centres for distribution across Europe and by road to the port. Then across the North Sea reaching their final destination by road with the doors opening and closing as each delivery along the route is made.  Even travelling in a heated lorry is just not enough. The length of time that the plants are in transportation could be detrimental to their condition.
So if you are unsure ask someone in the shop to point out the British grown poinsettias. They should be able to tell you. You might have better success with the British grown ones. British grown poinsettias are that little bit more expensive than the imported ones. But usually you are buying a stronger more robust plant.

How to make that all important decision when you have  about 100 poinsettias to choose from…

Don’t buy a plant that is sold near a draughty spot in a shop or outside a florists door. Poinsettias hate draughty spots and they will show their disapproval very quickly.  Many garden centres know where their hot and cold spots are. Usually the Poinsettias are placed in the warmest parts of the shop. Plus regular temperature checks are made throughout the day. So try to buy from those areas. Where their azaleas and cyclamen are placed should most of the time give you a clue as to where the cold spots are!
Look out for nice dark green leaves that are sitting well on the plant rather than drooping. Plus a well balanced shape that has leaves right down to the base. Sometimes the plants are still in their sleeves. So try to roll down the sleeve to check the condition of the leaves at the lowest level. Don’t buy one that has yellow leaves.
If a plant has been left in its plastic sleeve too long the ethylene gas builds up inside. The gas makes the plant drop its leaves far too quickly and makes the leaves curl. Some suppliers have holes in the sleeves to try to prevent this from happening. Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to have the plastic sleeve around the plant. Its giving it a little more protection from the cold! Just not for too long. If the plant is wilting in the shop and it has soggy compost leave it well alone.

Poinsettia Flowers

Poinsettia flowers (cyathia) are tiny – all of the colour is in the leaves (bracts). When buying your plant check those little flowers. If the poinsettia is in full bloom then all those little yellow flowers will have opened out. So try to buy a plant that has many of them still to open. When a poinsettia has past its best those little flowers fall off. So checking the flowers is a good way of telling if the plant is past its prime. What I have found is that a few of the newer varieties have very few cyathia. So it’s not a foolproof test.
If you are getting your poinsettia gift wrapped in the shop as a present for someone – make sure the assistant doesn’t completely cover the plant with gift wrap if it’s going to be a few days before you give the gift to the recipient. The plant could droop after 48 hours inside the cellophane.

 

Once you have bought your plant don’t leave the shop without it being placed in a plastic sleeve. Make sure that you don’t leave the houseplant in the car for long (never in the boot) and get it home as quickly as possible. Leave your poinsettia purchase to the very last item on the shopping list that day.

Now you’ve got it home…

  • Keep it away from draughts. You would be surprised at how many people want to grow theirs in a cold porch!
  • Don’t let the bracts touch a cold window pane for any length of time as that will damage the leaves.
  • Night temperatures should be no cooler than 60 to 65 degrees F and daytime temperatures should not exceed 80 degrees F as they also detest excessive heat.
  • If the curtains are closed at night time take the plant into the room away from the window sill. Any rapid temperature fluctuations will cause premature leaf drop.
  • Keep it away from heated appliances, tv, computers and radiators.
  • Take the plastic sleeve off the plant so that the roots can breathe and gases can’t build up.

Light levels

  • Place the plant somewhere nice and bright during the winter months and keep an eye out for bugs as the weeks go by.
  • Don’t let it sit in too much sunlight during the day as it is a bit fussy about that too! plus the bracts start to fade.
    • About 2 hours of sunlight a day is recommended but if you live in the UK 2 hours of bright sunlight a day in wintertime is quite rare!  If it is placed in too shady a position it will also loose some of its leaves.
  • The coloured bracts should last 2-6 months.

 

Watering

If you get the watering right – then you should hopefully be on a journey of success. Check for water every day and when the compost is dry to touch on the surface it’s time to water – making sure that you give the plant enough luke warm water so that some of it runs out of the bottom of the pot. Drain away the excess and don’t leave it sitting in a saucer of water.
It will droop if it has been kept too dry. However there’s a window of opportunity here if you catch it quick enough. Place the plant in a shady spot sitting in lukewarm water for quite a few hours and it should revive itself. I’ve done this on so many occasions and it does work but it will probably drop a few of its leaves in protest at being left too dry.  If it’s drooping and the compost is soggy – sorry but that plant is only fit for the compost bin as I’ve never seen one recover from that.

 

It’s best to water in the mornings rather than in the evenings.

Feeding

Many people don’t realise how hungry these plants really are. Feeding also helps prevent the leaves from going yellow BUT DON’T FEED when the plant is flowering! Just use a general purpose houseplant fertilizer and follow the instructions on the bottle. Though some garden centres now sell special feeds for poinsettias.

 

 

A little caution

 

You will notice the white sap that seeps from the slightest wound in the leaf or stem. I’ve always wash my hands once I have come in contact with the white sap. I read last year that about 8% of the population have an allergy to latex. And out of that 8% – 40 % of those people have an allergy to poinsettia sap. Every time those people come in contact with the sap their allergy gets worse. So eventually coming in contact with the sap could put the person into anaphylactic shock…scary!

For all the rest of us who don’t have that allergy just don’t let any of the sap get into your eyes or mouth as it’s an irritant. It’s best to keep young children away from the plants as they will find that oozing milky white sap quite intriguing I’m sure. It’s also best to keep it out of reach of any pets you have in the home. The plant is not poisonous but as you can see a few can have severe reactions. So it’s best to be cautious.
Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is a passionate wildlife gardener in Scotland, a Perthshire / Tayside flower and garden photographer and writer. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters. She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography.

Rosie Nixon
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32 Responses

  1. Edith Hope

    Dear Rosie, You are a mind reader. No-one can possibly need this advice more than I since my success with these alluring plants is nil. Every year I vow never to buy another, but then always do and withind seconds they are turning a sickly jaundiced colour and not the lovely lipstick red that I admired in the shop. With your help, perhaps success can be mine this Christmas!!

  2. Jayne

    Hi Rosie

    On this side of the pond, I believe most of the Poinsettias we get come from Mexico.

    I look at them as temporary, seasonal plants and have never tried to keep them going beyond New Year's. In fact, I consider myself lucky if they last that long!

    I had no idea, until I read your post, that were were so many varieties!

    You'll probably cringe to learn that I have four out on the back patio at the moment, and we've had a freeze since they've been out there!

  3. Gerry Snape

    What wonderful photos, what amazing advice and I suppose that it means that I've got to stop buying them from Mr. Aldi's!!
    Seriously superb post for all of us at this time of year for who doesn't have a poinsettia.

  4. The Whimsical Gardener

    Hi Rosie,

    Thanks for such a timely post! No wonder my plants never last more than a couple of weeks…I had no idea they were so picky! I'll try harder to consider their needs this season than those past. Your photos are beautiful – very enjoyable.

  5. Ami

    Rosie: Thanks for an information packed post! I often buy Poinsettia as gifts to others, but not much for myself. I don't know why, maybe a little afraid that I can not keep them looking good for long. Thanks for great tips!

  6. meemsnyc

    Those are great tips for Pointsettas! I love the ones that are pink and white rather than traditional red. They are so unique and pretty.

  7. Andrea

    Yes Rosie they are very exquisite varieties, and your photos are awesome too. I love that one speckled with white, it's not yet here i think. Your title is very very apt for the season, and it transcends beyond race, climate, religion and economic status, hehe. Merry Christmas my friend.

  8. GrandmaK

    Thank you for all these wonderful tips for the care of the Poinsettia! But more important, thank you for these wonderfully colorful pictures! Well done! Cathy

  9. kanak7

    Rosie, I realize how much care the plant needs in colder climes. And your post is most informative. Our ones grow outside and do not need much attention. But such wonderful cultivars aren't available here. Your photos are wonderful! I love the speckled one most of all. Haven't seen one here.

  10. Jan n Jer

    Great post and great pics. I used to buy poinsettias every Christmas and even tried my hand at keeping them all year. Now I just have artificial ones..I took the easy way out. I do this mainly because we head down south Jan 1 and I cannot enjoy a live poinsettia very long. You should see some of the ones in Florida, they are huge after being planted in the flower beds after the Holiday.

  11. One

    What timely advice. Yours are beautiful. I think there is only the red one around here.

  12. PatioPatch

    Dear Rosie – gave up long ago with these but all your hints and care tips are so useful. Seeing the differing varieties has tempted me back, especially as viewed through your wonderful lens! Thank you.

    Laura x

  13. Pam's English Garden

    Dear Rosie, Today we are getting our Christmas tree, wreaths, and poinsettias, so your posting is most timely. I am impressed with the thoroughness of your research. Many thanks. Pamela x

  14. Rose

    Thanks for these excellent tips, Rosie! I can never manage to keep my poinsettia over the winter, but the plant that lasted the longest for me was the most expensive one I bought. The school art club was selling them as a fundraiser, and though they were more expensive, they certainly lasted a long time. I haven't bought one this year yet, but I'm going to wait until a warmer day–it's so cold here I'm not sure it would survive even the walk to my car!

  15. Nikki .

    Gorgeous photo of the poinsettia… at least I now know I am not alone in the sad demise of so many of these plants over the years…

  16. Anna

    Some excellent advice Rosie but sadly it seems that I only have to look at houseplants to kill them 🙁

  17. AaronVFT

    Thanks for the article! Though I don't need to worry about cold since I live in the tropics, poinsettia are still confusing for me.

  18. Patsi

    Not always fond of long posts,but yours was a easy read.
    Some of what you said I knew already…still it was a good reminder.
    Thanks for all the added details like how to purchase…most helpful.

  19. Plant chaser

    Hi Rosie! Excellent, excellent post. I've never bought poinsettias for Christmas. A few weeks ago though, I saw some potted ones that were variegated and that certainly got my interest. I plan to go back and if there are any left, get some for myself. — Bom / Plant Chaser

  20. Stephanie

    Hello Rosie! Bom brought me here. All the information you have listed here are really useful. Our poinsettias in Malaysia are grown in the highlands greenhouses, Cameron Highlands. With regards to feeding, earlier I have learnt that it is best not to feed when poinsettia is in bloom. So now I have another idea… feed to prevent leaves from yellowing. Hmmm… I have still lots to learn about this special Christmas plant 😉

  21. Crafty Green Poet

    I really like poinsettias but I don't grow them! I remember some beautiful white ones that grew in the school where I taught in Malawi.

  22. Lucy

    I'm giving up the idea I will ever see your pictures again. However many times I visit, they don't come up.

    Interesting read about poinsettias (even without pictures). I feel a little daunted now but I didn't know about the sap, nor did I know about the feeding. It's too easy to see poinsettias as Christmas decorations and not treat them in the way one would other plants.

    Lucy

  23. Barbara

    Such a great, informative post – I got one of these plants yesterday and was wondering what to do with it to keep it alive, many thanks!

  24. Gatsbys Gardens

    Thanks for the great tips. I never knew that you should feed a poinsettia. I have several and am trying to make them last until Christmas.

    Eileen

  25. Lucy

    Your lovely pictures came straight up. No delay – right up on the screen the moment I clicked the link! Hurray! I hope anyone else who has been put off visiting will now find it worth arriving – but that those who have been accessing them with ease won't find that they suddenly can't!

    Thanks for taking the trouble with this.

    Lucy

  26. Melanie

    Over here you can buy 3 kinds red pink and white. Every year when the stores are full of them I have to remind myself how much I don't like them. Great post Rosie, lots of good information here.

  27. Hocking Hills Gardener

    Thank you Rosie for all of the information on these temperamental plants.Getting mine to rebloom is where I give up and throw them out.Maybe I do not have the patience to play around with them. LOL! Have a wonderful week!

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