How to Grow and Care for Poinsettias

Written by Natalie Anstey

 In This Article:

Poinsettias are a common gift at Christmas but can be enjoyed all year round. Poinsettias do get a bad rep for being hard to look after and easy to kill, but given the right care they will thrive and may even flower again!

Botanical Name:Euphorbia pulcherrima
Common Name(s):Poinsettia, Christmas Star
Plant Type:Flowering perennial
Place of Origin:Mexico 
Sun Exposure:Indirect sun
Watering Schedule:Every 7 days
Seasonality (best time to plant):Spring through autumn
Bloom Time:Winter
Toxicity:Unsafe for cats and dogs

Poinsettia Water Needs 

Poinsettia do not like to be overwatered, and like to dry out between waterings so only water when the top 3cm of soil is dry to the touch. If possible use distilled water, filtered water or rain water as the chemicals in tap water can be too harsh for poinsettias. 

Incorrect watering is normally the cause of poinsettia failing so it is really important to get this right! 

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Try to use water that is free from chlorine and chemicals. Filtered or rain water will be fine or if not possible use tap water that has been left overnight.

Poinsettias Lighting Needs 

Poinsettias like conditions that replicate their natural habitat and thrive in spots that are bright and warm without too many temperature fluctuations or drafts. They like to sit in bright but indirect light as direct sun can burn their leaves and flower bracts or cause their leaves to drop.

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Poinsettias thrive in sunny conditions but need to be protected from harsh or direct sunlight. 6-8 hours of indirect sun would be perfect!

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Poinsettias Temperature & Humidity Needs

Poinsettias can be temperamental and hate temperature fluctuations, so keep them away from radiators or open windows. An ideal temperature range would be between 60 - 75℉.

Poinsettias tolerate humidity well, and prefer humidity levels of around 40% or more. Anything less than this can cause the leaves to dry out and become brown and brittle.

If the leaves start to turn brown the poinsettia should be positioned in a more humid spot or misted more. Placing your pot on a tray of wet pebbles is also an easy way to increase the humidity levels as is sitting the plant near other plants.

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Poinsettias are best kept as houseplants as they usually do not thrive outdoors. Unless of course, they are in their natural habitat in Mexico. 

Poinsettias Soil & Fertilizer 

Poinsettias don’t have specific requirements when it comes to soil. A free draining houseplant compost would be perfectly fine. They do not however, like soil that holds the water as this can cause root rot.

From spring to fall feed your poinsettia once a month using a 20-10-20 fertilizer. Poinsettias do not need to be fed in the winter when they are in bloom.

Poinsettias Repotting

Repot the Poinsettia in summer and only when it shows signs of becoming pot bound. A good way to tell this is to look underneath the pot and if your plant is running out of space the roots will start to push through the bottom of the drainage holes. Don’t go too big too quickly, aim to repot the Poinsettia in a pot one size bigger than the previous using a general purpose compost/house plant compost.

Poinsettias Propagation

Poinsettias usually begin to decline after 2-3 years but you can make baby plants from the parent plant easily. 

1. Use houseplant compost along with vermiculite or perlite with a breakdown of 75% compost to 25% perlite/vermiculite.
2. Choose a healthy stem and cut at a 45 degree angle using clean tools.
3. At the bottom of the stem, make 3 snips upwards of an inch long and dip the base in a rooting hormone (this step is not required but yields the best results).
4. Now you can plant the stem in your pot, water and cover with a clear plastic bag to create a greenhouse. 

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Keep your cutting in a warm and sheltered spot and don’t let it dry out. 

Poinsettias Common Pests & Diseases

1. Yellowing Leaves/Leaves Falling Off - This is normally caused by too much direct light and/or harsh chemicals in tap water. Place your Poinsettia somewhere more sheltered and think about using filtered water.

2. Mealy Bugs - Mealy bugs love the sweet sap of new growth and show up on a Poinsettia as white tufts. They are greedy and can destroy a Poinsettia quickly so make sure to clean the leaves and treat with an insecticide or neem oil.

3. Thrips - Thrips also known as Thunderbugs are very common and carry disease from plant to plant. Although tiny, they leave black dust on the leaves so it is best to clean the leaves to remove them and then treat with insecticide or neem oil.

4. Not Flowering - This is probably the most common problem and perhaps the most tricky to sort out. Cover your plant with a box from early evening (4pm onwards) until the next morning, from the months of September to December. 

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Even if you don’t think that your plant has any pests it is still worth raking over the top of the soil with a kitchen fork as this will bring any eggs to the surface.

Poinsettias Toxicity

The poinsettia is mildly toxic if ingested and the sap can be an irritant so keep away from children and furry friends.

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