Nothing says Christmas quite like Poinsettias do and for this reason they simply never get old. Year after year we reach for these tried and tested harbingers of Christmas to decorate our homes and get into the festive spirit. For some the care of these plants can be a little daunting, but it need not be.
Poinsettias originate from Mexico, where they naturally bloom in winter as they are short day plants, meaning they require long nights to induce flowering. Once plants have initiated flowering they no longer require long nights, so there is no need to recreate these conditions in your home. When selecting the perfect spot for your new plant be aware that slightly cooler temperatures will both bring out the vibrant colors in plants, as well as increase the bloom longevity. Plants thrive in bright light when indoors and stable temperatures. Be certain to avoid any form of cold or hot drafts.
The watering needs of Poinsettias will be determined by plant and pot size, indoor temperatures, root establishment and soil type. Water plants well and then allow them to dry between waterings, do not always keep plants moist. If uncertain, lifting plants to gage weight rather than merely examining the soil surface is quite effective. Plants are sensitive to overwatering so ensure your plant drains freely and remove any decorative foil in time or puncture sufficient holes.
For those wanting to overwinter their plants for another season, start fertilizing plants once they have finished blooming and start to show signs of new green growth. Plants will benefit from being transplanted into larger pots with fresh potting soil late spring/early summer. This is also an ideal time to prune or pinch plants back to encourage more compact, leafy plants. If possible, keep plants outdoors over summer as the air movement and direct light will greatly increase plant health and overall quality. Acclimatize plants gradually to the full sun and ensure temperatures are above 50F at night.
When selecting the perfect Poinsettia, look for compact sturdy plants as Poinsettias can be quite brittle and break easily. Ensure plants are well wrapped, both to avoid breakage and to reduce any likeliness of cold damage. Do not leave plants in unheated vehicles or carry them outdoors when browsing garden centers. What we think of Poinsettia flowers are actually colorful bracts, whilst the true flowers are the tiny yellow blooms in the bract centers, which often go unnoticed. Seek plants with tight/unopened yellow buds as this is a good indication of fresh plants. Poinsettias are available in different shades of reds, pinks, whites, speckles and more, as well as various shapes, styles and sizes of bracts.
Contrary to popular belief, the white sticky sap characteristic of these plants is not poisonous, however it can sometimes cause a rash.
Latin Name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Light: Bright light indoors (full to part sun outdoors)
Bloom Color: Red, burgundy, pink, white, multicolor
Bloom Period: Winter
Height: 13-15ft (if grown outdoors and left unpruned)
Hardiness: Not hardy (houseplant)