The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is the plant star of the holiday season, and with a few tips you can keep yours looking happy and healthy through the Christmas season (and beyond if you don’t mind some extra work).
While we are used to seeing the Poinsettia during the cold months of the year, it’s actually a tropical plant native to Mexico. The colorful leaves (from white to light pink to bright red) are the plant’s response to shorter sunlight hours in the winter, which is why they don’t bloom all year long.
The “flowers” of Poinsettia are actually types of leaves called bracts, but there are tiny yellow flowers in the center (called cyathia) which attract insects and fall off after pollination.
Related: Learn to Care for Christmas Cactus, Pilea Plants, Monstera Plants, Calathea, Spider Plants, Peace Lilies, Fiddle Leaf Figs, Golden Pothos, Snake Plants, Rubber Trees, and String of Pearls Plants.
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How often should I water Poinsettia?
You’ll want to keep the soil moist but not soggy (that can lead to root rot), so feel the top of your soil and once it starts to feel almost dry it’s time to water again.
Use a pot with drainage holes at the bottom to prevent root rot, or if you like the decorative foil they come in, remove it from the foil and water in the sink replacing it back in the foil once excess water has drained.
How much sunlight do Poinsettia need?
Indoors Poinsettia like bright indirect sunlight, so keep them where the light is bright but not directly hitting the plant.
Should I fertilize my Poinsettia?
If you are just keeping your plant over the holiday season, then there’s no need to fertilize it. If you are trying to keep it beyond Christmas, you can fertilize it every month with half strength all-purpose fertilizer once you see new growth starting to appear on the plant.
Temperature and humidity for Poinsettia plants
Indoor Poinsettia will do best between 65-70° F and you’ll want to keep them above 50° or you risk damage or them dying due to cold. If you want to decorate your porch with them, you’ll have to live in a place that doesn’t drop below 50° at night. If you are buying one from a store and it’s cold outside, keep it covered with a bag and don’t let it sit in a cold car for hours before taking it inside.
Like most plants, you’ll want to keep your Poinsettia away from areas with big temperature changes, so place them away from outside doors, drafts, heating vents, etc.
Since they are a tropical plant, Poinsettias enjoy more humid locations, so you can put a humidifier in the room with them to keep them happy.
Repotting Poinsettia plants
If you are just keeping your plant over the holiday season, you won’t need to worry about repotting it.
If you are trying to keep it alive until the next holiday season, in late spring or early summer you can remove the plant from the old pot and carefully wash the old soil from the roots of the plant. Repot your poinsettia into a larger pot that’s about 2 to 4 inches bigger than the original container. Use a pot with good drainage and choose a soil mix that has a lot of organic matter (like peat moss).
Propagating Poinsettia plants
You can actually propagate Poinsettia plants from cuttings and grow yourself a new plant within a few weeks. To propagate Poinsettia:
- Add potting soil to a small cup or small pot.
- Use pruning shears to cut off a 3-4″ section of an actively growing branch and pinch off the lower leaves leaving the top leaves to provide water for the plant.
- Optional, but you can dip the cut end into a rooting hormone before sticking the cut end into the dirt.
- Once the cut end is planted in the dirt, keep the new plant in a humid area that’s away from direct sunlight. You don’t need to water it as it will pull water from its leaves, but to increase the humidity, you can mist the leaves with water and put a small plastic bag over the cup to encourage it to grow.
- In about four weeks you should notice roots growing from the cutting and you can replant it in a pot with drainage holes and start to water as usual.
How to get Poinsettia to rebloom
If you want to keep your plant alive all year long and see it bloom again next holiday season, you’ll need to give it some extra care as they can be quite finicky and particular.
Start to hold back on your watering in April so that the plant begins to dry out (but not so little water that the stem starts to shrivel) and place it in an area that’s around 60°.
In mid-May, you can prune back the plant to about 4″ stems and repot the plant in a slightly larger pot. Put the plant in a spot with lots of indirect light and start to water it regularly again. As new growth starts to appear, you can begin to fertilize it monthly.
Pinch back the stems once in July and again in August.
In order for the plant to bloom, it needs to have 10 weeks of 12 hours or less of sunlight each day, so starting in October you’ll have to keep the plant in total uninterrupted darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. You can put the plant in a closet or even under a box, anywhere that’s warm but dark!
It’s a lot of work but a fun experiment to see if you can successfully mimic the darkness it needs to show its true colors.
Diagnosing common problems
- Wilted or curled leaves: The plant probably needs more water. Give it a good watering and see if the leaves perk up within a day or two.
- Leaf loss: Leaf loss can be due to many factors like underwatering, overwatering, too cold, or too dry of a climate. If the soil is dry and the leaves are falling, try watering to see if that restores the plant. If the soil feels wet when they are dropping then you may be overwatering and need to let the soil dry out almost fully between watering. Check to make sure the plant is away from cold areas (like right next to a window or near a door draft) and you can try a humidifier or plant mister if you suspect your air is too dry for the plant.
- Lower leaves yellowing: If the bottom leaves of your plant are yellowing and falling off, it may be due to not getting enough light and you may need a sunnier location with more indirect light.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Poinsettia toxic to humans or animals?
While the sap of the plant can cause a skin rash, the plant itself is actually not as toxic as has been historically thought. It is not fatal if eaten, but kids or pets can develop a mouth rash and stomach upset if ingested, so it’s best to leave it out of reach.