Poinsettia Plant Care
How to care for a poinsettia indoors
Poinsettia is a popular houseplant that is well known for its use as Christmas decoration. Poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is native to the dry tropical forests of Central America, where it grows in the wild to the size of shrubs or even small trees, and it’s perfectly adapted to the local habitat. Thanks to its vivid December blooms, the poinsettia plant has become a symbol of Christmas in Central and North America, and it’s a popular houseplant around the world.
This plant kind of deceives us with its colors, because what appears to be flowers are actually brightly colored leaves, while the real flowers are smaller and located in the center at the top of stems. The typical flowering color of poinsettias is deep red, but various cultivars also bloom in shades of pink, white, orange, and yellow.
How to grow poinsettias
Many growers aren’t sure how exactly to care for poinsettias to ensure that they thrive and bring them joy in form of Christmas blooms. However, growing a poinsettia is not difficult, and the only challenging task is stimulating the plant to flower. Otherwise, their needs aren’t much different from other houseplants.
Light: Poinsettias prefer plenty of diffused light. The ideal habitat for poinsettias is near an eastern window, where they receive morning sun and are shaded during the hotter part of the day. A southern or western exposure is also suitable, but in any case, the poinsettia should have at least 5 hours of sunlight per day.
Water: keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. If the potting medium is dry to the touch, water the poinsettia generously, until excess water drains out of the pot through the drainage holes. Good drainage is important because if any excess water remains in the pot it will endanger the health of the plant. A symptom of overwatering is yellowing leaves, while underwatering causes the leaves to wilt and fall off.
Temperature: Poinsettias thrive in room temperatures between 16 and 22°C (60 – 70°F). Temperatures at night can drop to 10 to 15°C (50 – 59°F), but this is not a necessary condition for successful growing. Keep poinsettias away from sources of heat or draughts, and they shouldn’t touch cool window glass, as they can be harmed by temperatures below 10°C (50°F). Poinsettias can also be grown outdoors during summer, but only after the threat of frost has passed and the average night temperature does not drop below 10°C (50°F). Choose a place with plenty of sun for outdoor growing, and keep plants in partial shade for the first two weeks to get them used to the outdoor environment before they’re exposed to more intense sunshine.
Fertilizing: Poinsettias can be fertilized once a month with a balanced, all-purpose, liquid fertilizer during late spring and summer, while fertilizing should be completely discontinued during the flowering period (December-January).
Pruning: The ideal time to prune poinsettias is March and April, when the plant can be cut back to 20 cm (8 inches). Even after this pruning, you can cut back excessively long shoots (young shoots can be pinched off with your fingers) to encourage thicker, more compact growth, but do not cut back the plant after September.
Transplanting: June is the ideal time to transplant poinsettias into larger pots. You can use a regular potting soil rich in organic matter for transplanting. The new pot should be no more than 2 cm (an inch) larger than the new one to prevent the plant from growing too quickly.
Propagation: the best way to propagate a poinsettia is to use cuttings (7-10 cm/3-4 inches long), which can be taken from the plant during the summer. Stick the cuttings into a mixture of sand and potting soil, set aside in the shade and keep the soil moist until the cuttings root (approx. 3 weeks). They can then be transplanted into larger pots.
Flowering: Poinsettias don’t require extra care, but in order to ensure they bloom, they need the light conditions of its natural environment. To flower, the poinsettia needs 14 hours of complete darkness each night during the autumn (starting in October, for a period of 8 to 10 weeks). A reduction in the amount of daylight stimulates poinsettias to form flower buds and to color the upper leaves. To ensure 14 full hours of darkness for the plant, you can cover the plant with a box, put it in a cupboard, or any other method that creates complete darkness. However, make sure that not even the slightest ray of natural or artificial light reaches the plant, as this will delay flowering. After 14 hours of darkness, give the plant 6 to 10 hours of bright light each day to give the leaves bright colors. After this alternation of darkness and light, the poinsettia will start to flower brightly during December.
• Poinsettia is one of the houseplants well suited for a self-watering pot
• Poinsettia is not a poisonous plant, but it can cause indigestion if too many leaves are consumed and can irritate the skin when handled.
• If poinsettias are grown in bright light and low humidity they require more frequent watering or misting with water.
A selection of different poinsettia varieties:
Enjoy your poinsettias.