Poinsettia plants are part of the Euphorbia family and are popular during the holidays due to their colorful leaves (called bracts). But did you know that they’re native to Mexico? Most people only know this plant as a decoration to use for winter. However, they also make for an attractive display throughout the year.
During winter, poinsettias change color, giving them their bright, (usually red) leaves, which look like petals. These beautifully-shaped leaves then lead to the cyathia, the yellow-colored flowers in the center. Here, we explore how you can provide year-round care for your Poinsettia.
Planting Your Poinsettia
If you’re planning to grow a Poinsettia indoors, the best time to do so is during spring and summer. Follow the steps below to ensure that it gets the best care possible.
- If you bought your plant during winter, it’s best to keep it watered through winter and into spring.
- When ready, repot your Poinsettia early in the summer. It’s best to pick a pot that’s only slightly bigger than the original one. Use a rich potting mix with a high content of organic matter. Doing this will provide your plant with a good start towards the growing season.
- Remember to give your Poinsettia a lot of sunlight. To do this, place it close to windows where there’s enough indirect, bright light. However, avoid windows that expose your plant to cold air. This plant thrives around temperatures of 65 degrees F — they don’t handle temperature changes well. Take note that you can keep your Poinsettia outside if the summer temperatures are warm enough and don’t drop below 65 degrees. Remember to place the plant within an area with partial shade.
- Be sure to water your Poinsettia well. Keep your poinsettias watered throughout spring and the growing season by feeling the top inch of your soil. If it feels dry, slowly add water and wait until it’s absorbed in the soil before adding more water. When the saturation slows down, stop watering before excess water pools at the surface.
- Remember to fertilize your Poinsettia monthly with a complete liquid fertilizer. A compound of 12-12-12 or 20-20-20 will work best for these plants. When fall comes, it’s best to stop fertilizing in time for the poinsettias to flower.
More Poinsettia Planting Tips
- For pruning, pinch the small growing shoots from the plant to keep it bushy and compact throughout the growing season. You can then use the shoots for propagating new plants, or you can discard them. You may cut back the old growth during early winter or late fall to encourage new growth the following spring.
- When you want to overwinter your Poinsettia, you can bring it back inside to avoid frost during the fall season. Create a cycle of short sunny days and long, uninterrupted nights during winter and fall. This schedule will encourage the bracts to change from a green to red color. Do this for nine to ten weeks until the yellow flowers begin to form.
- Place the poinsettias in complete darkness for 14 to 16 hours every day from late September to early October. An ideal area is a cool closet, but you can use a large box if you don’t have one. Exposing your plant to any light at this time will only delay its change of color.
How to Overwinter a Poinsettia
- Keep your plants in complete darkness while the temperatures are at their coolest. The best hours to do this are between 5:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M. During these times, the temperatures will be around 55 to 60 degrees F.
- Bring the poinsettias out of the darkness when morning comes and place them close to a sunny window. The temperatures here should be around 70 degrees F.
- By the time December comes, your Poinsettia should be ready for display during the holidays. Place your plant near a sunny window and let it soak up regular light during the winter flowering season.
- Prepare for dormancy when the flower bracts start to fade. When these tiny yellow flowers begin to wilt — between February to March — it’s time for their dormancy period.
- Ease off on watering for a few months until it starts to show new growth during spring. Let the top few inches of the soil dry out before watering.
- Remember to prune the plants down to just 8 to 10 inches tall. You can use these cuttings to propagate new plants.
Growing Your Poinsettia
Contrary to popular belief, these beautiful plants aren’t hard to care for. When Christmas passes, you can keep growing them for the next year or use them as a cut flower. Keep in mind that poinsettias belong in tropical climates, so they need light, humidity, and warmth to survive. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you care for your Poinsettia.
As mentioned above, place your plant in an east or west window to receive bright light. Ensure that your Poinsettia gets at least six hours of indirect sunlight every day. While you need to pick out the sunniest window in the home, don’t let the plant touch cold windows. Also, do not let direct rays hit their leaves since these plants can burn quickly. If you don’t have the proper amount of sunlight in your home, consider grow lights to give the plants what they need.
Water when the soil’s surface feels dry to the touch or when the pot feels light. Don’t ever allow your plant to dry out, or it will wilt. When watering it, set your plant in a sink and water it thoroughly, then allow it to drain completely.
Furthermore, don’t let your Poinsettia sit in too much water since this can cause root rot. Continue with its watering needs from January to March. Remember always to empty the drainage tray, so your plant never sits in the water. Mist it regularly, or use a humidifier or pebble tray to add humidity.
This plant doesn’t have too many demands from the soil. Because they typically come potted from the store to be given as gifts, they are easy to plant or replant. Choose a well-draining peat-based potting soil and keep the soil moist for success.
The ideal temperature for the Poinsettia is between 65-75 degrees F. However, avoid placing your plants in areas where the temperatures can fluctuate. Fluctuating temperatures can cause the plants to dry out. Do not place your plants near heat ducts, cold drafts, fans, fireplaces, and space heaters. Your plant can suffer damage if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F. Furthermore, freezing temperatures can kill poinsettias.
These plants are also susceptible to dropping leaves and looking scraggly if we expose them to extreme changes in temperatures. There are also a few things you can do to keep your Poinsettia blooming as long as possible. Maintain its temperature between 65-75 degrees F during the day; however, a slight drop in temperature won’t hurt your Poinsettia. Insufficient light or too much cold can also cause the leaves to drop prematurely.
During the dry seasons — winter in particular — many plants can suffer from a lack of humidity, with poinsettias being one of them. If your home tends to have dry air, it’s best to get a space humidifier to increase humidity levels in the area around your plant.
When your poinsettia blooms, there’s no need to feed it — this comes later. Here is a quick breakdown of how you can feed your plant.
- Remember that there’s no need to feed your Poinsettia during the holidays.
- Start fertilizing these plants when there is new growth. Look for new stems, bracts, or green leaves.
- Use a household plant fertilizer good for various purposes. Mix it with water to enable it to work at half the recommended strength.
- Feed your plant once every 3-4 weeks to keep it healthy. Doing so will also provide it with the needed nutrients to encourage new growth.
Repotting a Poinsettia
The best time to transplant your poinsettias is during late spring or early summer. To get started, make sure to choose a larger container than the previous one. It should be at least 2-4 inches bigger and pick a plant pot with drainage holes. Or you can also use a garden bed exposed to partial sun.
If you’re using a pot, opt for a soil mix that’s rich in organic matter like peat moss. Before planting, ensure that your pot has good drainage. If you want to replant in the garden, ensure that it is well-drained and that the plant will get 4-5 hours of sun every day.
Mix organic matter like compost or peat moss into your soil. Doing this will help maintain the soil’s moisture while creating an excellent environment for growing the roots. Thoroughly water your Poinsettia after transplanting.
Care Calendar for Your Poinsettia
For many of us, the challenge of growing this plant comes from trying to make them bloom again. Luckily, we’ve come up with a care schedule to encourage your plant’s growth.
- Spring (from March to May): Once all the blooms have faded, your Poinsettia will enter a resting season until summer comes back. During this time, reduce the water provided and let the plant dry completely between waterings. It’s also best to prune the plant back to just 6-8 inches tall.
- Summer (from May to September): If needed, repot your plant in a light potting mix. If your plant is root-bound, it’s time to use a slightly bigger pot. When new growth appears, start feeding it with a balanced organic fertilizer.
Feed it once every two weeks. To encourage branching, pinch the stems back as they grow. You may place your Poinsettia outside during summer but take them back inside before it gets cold.
- Fall (during October): This plant will bloom as a response to shorter days. Place the plant in complete darkness around 8 to 10 weeks before your desired bloom time. Do this for 12 to 15 hours every day for the best results. You may cover your plant using a black plastic bag or a thick cardboard box.
Moreover, you can move your Poinsettia inside a closet for 12 hours of complete darkness every day. However, you need to maintain this routine precisely as described here; exposure to indoor lighting can ruin the process. When morning comes, remove the cover and ensure that the plant gets a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight. You can also feed and water the plant as usual.
- Winter (from January to March): As long as your Poinsettia is blooming, continue to water your plant. Remember to place it next to a sunny window to ensure it gets enough sunlight.
- Blooming during holidays (from November to December): When you finish 8 to 10 weeks of keeping your plant in the dark, flower buds should be visible. After this, you can start placing your Poinsettia back next to the window to enjoy. While it’s good to continue watering your plant, stop feeding it until spring arrives.
Other Poinsettia Concerns
While poinsettias are relatively easy to care for, there are other concerns that you will need to address to grow this plant successfully and safely. Here are a few things to look out for when growing poinsettias.
Are Poinsettias Toxic?
Unfortunately, poinsettias have a long-standing reputation for being poisonous. They’re most certainly not meant to be ingested by people, pets, or livestock. Eating these plants will give anyone an upset stomach, just as most houseplants would. Nevertheless, labs have tested poinsettias extensively, and there’s no evidence that they’re highly toxic to pets. Should you notice your pets suffering from any of the symptoms below, it’s best to contact your vet.
- Skin irritation
While this isn’t harmful to human health, don’t consume poinsettia plants. Its sticky white sap can give your skin a rash, so wear gloves when touching these plants. Also, avoid contact with your mouth and eyes. Wash the tools thoroughly to get the sap off, as they can make your tools sticky.
Pests and Diseases
Like most houseplants, poinsettias face various pests and diseases, including whiteflies, gnats, mealybugs, thrips, and powdery mildew. If you see signs of illness or infestations, immediately remove the affected area of the plant. You will then need to treat the plant using a fungicide or organic insecticide until the problem is completely gone.
Besides its traditional red hue, poinsettias exist in various other colors for you to enjoy. These include shades of pink, cream, yellow, and even blue. However, note that the blue variants are created using dyes and won’t bloom again in the same color of bracts. Here are some of the most beautiful varieties to keep an eye out for:
- “Plum pudding” – a unique, purple variant of Poinsettia.
- “Tri-Color” – poinsettia with white, pink, and red bracts.
- “Lemon Drop” – a cheery variant with yellow bracts.
- “Jingle Bells” – this is a festive variant with red bracts that have pink dots.
Different Colored Poinsettias
Gardeners found ways to make hybrids and expanded the range of colors available from the familiar scarlet we all know. During the holidays, you will find that poinsettias can fit into almost any decorative arrangement you can imagine.
Some varieties have patterns that come in green and white, white and pink, red and white, and even orange colors. At times, you may also find unusual colors for these plants, such as purple or blue, inside garden centers. But don’t be fooled — these are the cream variants spray-painted and possibly even sprinkled with glitter. Furthermore, its flowers can vary, with some looking like a rose.
Poinsettia Quick Facts
- These plants will bloom during shorter days.
- Poinsettias aren’t flowers, they’re shrubs, and the “flowers” are called bracts.
- They will grow better when kept between around 65 and 70 degrees F and in moist soil.
- They can be grown inside during colder months and outside during hotter months.
- While the plant may not be harmful to humans, the sap can cause dermatitis.
FAQs for Poinsettia Plants
The short answer is yes. Poinsettias can cause an upset stomach (like many houseplants do) not just for humans but for pets and livestock too. While there’s no proof they’re more dangerous than other plants, no one should ingest them. Look out for the following symptoms if you think your pet has consumed your Poinsettia:
- Skin irritation
Wear gloves at all times when handling this plant; its sticky sap can cause dermatitis. Don’t let it come into contact with your eyes or mouth, and thoroughly wash your tools to get the liquid off. Leaving sap on your tools will cause them to become sticky.
Thanks to hybrids made by gardeners, poinsettias now come in a range of colors outside of the regular red variant. Colors can range from pink, red, white, purple, blue, and even orange. There are also many different patterns that this plant can come in and even more varieties from which to choose.
You can give fertilizer to your plant once every 3-4 weeks. Doing this will provide it with enough nutrients to encourage healthy growth. Use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer and mix it with water to work at half of the recommended strength. Once your plant blooms, you can stop fertilizing it. There’s also no need to fertilizer it during the holidays, so wait until the season is over. You can restart fertilizing the plant when you see new growth, such as bracts, stems, or green leaves.
To encourage your plant to bloom, place it near an east or west window where it can get bright light. Make sure that the plant receives at a minimum of six hours of indirect sunlight every day. Remember that poinsettias can’t get hit by direct sunlight, or they will quickly burn.
The best time to plant your Poinsettia is during spring and summer. But if you’ve bought your plant around wintertime, you can keep it watered until spring comes. Here is a quick breakdown of how you can plant it.
- Repot your Poinsettia early in summer — use a pot that’s only a fraction larger than the one it came in. Be sure to use a rich potting mix with plenty of organic matter.
- Give the plant plenty of sun by placing it close to a window with bright, indirect sunlight. Keep the plant within temperatures of 65-75 degrees F and don’t allow it to experience any sudden temperature changes.
- Constantly water your Poinsettia well and keep it watered throughout the growing season. To determine if it needs watering, touch the soil’s top inch — if it feels dry, it’s time to water.
- Feed your Poinsettia with a liquid fertilizer every month. Use a compound of 12-12-12 or 20-20-20, as these will provide you with the best results. Once the fall season comes, stop feeding your plant to allow them to flower.