Poinsettia Care Tips

Botanical Name: Euphorbia pulcherrima

Good poinsettia care will keep your plant beautiful right through the holidays.

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Bright and cheery, poinsettia is a traditional decoration at Christmas time.

Its "flowers" are actually leaf-like bracts that surround the tiny, yellow true flowers in the center. Red still rules, but newer cultivars are available in burgundy, white, peach or pink -- some marbled or flecked. They also range from palm-sized miniatures to giant floor plants with bigger bracts than we've ever seen.

Poinsettia grows best in bright light, but too much direct sun can cause bract color to fade. It doesn't like cold drafts either. Exposing it to temperatures below 50°F/10°C can cause its leaves to drop.

Most poinsettias are tossed out after the holidays, or after the bracts have faded. However, with some effort and these poinsettia care tips, you can coax your poinsettia back into bloom before next Christmas.

How to Make Poinsettia Bloom Again

  1. When leaves start to fall, water sparingly (just enough to keep soil from drying out completely) and do not fertilize.

  2. In early April, prune the plant back to 6 in (15 cm) stems. This will stimulate new growth. Keep your poinsettia in a bright location with regular waterings and begin fertilizing. Once you see new growth, repot it in fresh soil.

  3. Poinsettia needs long nights and short days to bloom. Beginning in early October, give it 10 weeks of long nights (14 hours of complete darkness). Put a box over it, or put it in a closet, if you need to so that the plant gets uninterrupted darkness every night. Bring it out during the daytime and put it in a bright (indirect sun) location.

  4. Once the bracts begin to show color, resume with normal poinsettia care.

Poinsettia Care Tips

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Origin: Mexico

Height: Varies from 6 in (15 cm) miniatures to 36 in (90 cm) tall, full plants

Light: Bright light. Direct sun can cause bract color to fade.

Water: Water thoroughly, then allow top of soil to dry out between waterings. Remove the decorative foil to allow good drainage. This plant is prone to root rot if soil is too soggy.

Humidity: Average room humidity.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 60-75°F/15-24°C

Soil: Any good potting mix.

Fertilizer: Not usually necessary, but if the poinsettia is kept for another season it will benefit from a high-phosphorus fertilizer diluted by half every 2 weeks.

Propagation: Take 3 in (7.5 cm) stem tip cuttings when new growth starts in spring or early summer. Cuttings will ooze a milky sap that can be stopped by placing the cut end in water before potting it. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia sap is not poisonous, but it may cause skin irritation.

Did you know...

The poinsettia plant was discovered growing wild in Mexico in the 1820s by Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

Today, it's the top-selling flowering plant in the U.S. and the most popular for decorating and gift-giving during the holiday season.

Buying Tips

  • Look for plants with small, unopened flower buds in the center of the bracts.

  • Never buy a poinsettia that has been exposed to cold weather for any length of time.

  • Cover with a plastic sleeve to keep it from being chilled on the way home.

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There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettia, and the ones available change often as improved and novelty varieties are introduced.

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