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For many households, purchasing poinsettias to decorate for the holidays is an annual ritual. These attractive, colorful plants are often used as centerpieces or given as gifts during the festivities. Even after your winter decorations are stowed away, this colorful species can make a lovely addition to your houseplant collection—and you may even be able to coax it into blooming again the next fall.
Native to Mexico and Central America, poinsettias grow as tall shrubs in their natural habitat and can even be planted in the ground in warmer regions of the U.S. When growing your poinsettia indoors, a few simple care steps can keep your plant thriving until the next holiday season comes around. Just keep in mind that this species is mildly toxic, so it's best to place your poinsettia in an out-of-reach spot to keep children and pets safe.
- Botanical Name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
- Common Name: Poinsettia
- Plant Type: Flowering perennial
- Mature Size: 2–3 feet high as a potted plant; up to 10 feet high in native habitat
- Sun Exposure: Direct sunlight
- Soil Type: Well-drained, peat-based soil
- Soil pH: 5.8–6.2
- Toxicity: Toxic to humans and pets
When you first bring your poinsettia home, check its soil every couple of days to establish how frequently it needs water. Water the plant when the soil feels dry, taking care to water deeply. If your home is particularly dry in the winter and your plant receives sufficient sunlight, you may find yourself watering it more frequently.
If your poinsettia has a foil wrapper around its pot, remove this before watering, then allow the plant to drain fully in the sink before putting it back in the wrapper. After the holidays, once the flowers have faded, keep your poinsettia as a houseplant to enjoy its lush, green leaves. With the proper care, your poinsettia should flower again in the fall.
Buying a poinsettia while holiday shopping? Pick up the plant at the end of your trip so it isn't damaged by cold temperatures in your car while you're finding other gifts.
Best Growing Conditions for Poinsettia
The poinsettia plants you purchase during the holiday season have been forced into bloom by growers in time for the festivities. The red "petals" we prize are actually leaflike bracts surrounding small, cup-shaped yellow blooms, although the bracts last longer than the tiny flowers.
What Is a Bract?
A bract is a modified leaf that typically grows from the area just below a flower or flower cluster. Bracts differ from typical leaves, and they are sometimes a different size or color than the true flower.
To extend the bloom time as much as possible, keep your poinsettia in a place with bright, direct light; it's best to grow it as a window plant facing south or west to take in plenty of sun (at least six hours per day is ideal). Poinsettias grow best at temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees.
If your poinsettia's leaves begin to yellow, it's a sign that your plant is overwatered. Both overwatered and underwatered poinsettias may wilt and begin to drop their leaves, so check the soil's moisture level and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Types of Poinsettia
Poinsettias come in a variety of colors like classic red, pastel pink, creamy white, and even orange. Look for poinsettias with perky, dark green leaves and tight clusters of buds, which indicate that the plant still has plenty of bloom time left.
The 'Glace' variant is a white option commonly seen alongside red poinsettias during the holidays, while the bracts of other cultivars like 'Mars Pink' and 'Marco Polo' vary from bright pink to salmon hues. Most poinsettias boast vibrant, solid pigments, but some (like the 'Sonora White Glitter' variant) can even feature contrasting speckles on their colorful bracts.
How to Propagate Poinsettia
It's best to take cuttings for propagation in early summer. If you're attempting to rebloom your plant, you can propagate the stems you remove in May before repotting.
Poinsettias are simple to propagate via stem cuttings. To do this, you'll need a healthy mother plant, clean shears or a knife, rooting hormone powder, a small pot, a clear plastic bag, and fresh potting mix or fine sand. Here's how to grow new poinsettias from your plant:
Step 1: Fill the small pot with fresh potting mix or fine sand, then moisten it well. Poke a hole a few inches deep in the growing medium using a pencil or your pinky finger.
Step 2: Using your shears, remove a healthy-looking 6-inch cutting from the mother plant.
Step 3: Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone.
Step 4: Plant the cutting in the hole and gently pat the growing medium around it to keep it in place.
Step 5: Cover the cutting with the plastic bag, arranging it so that the leaves aren't touching the bag. This will create a more humid environment for the cutting.
Step 6: Place the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light (not direct sunlight like you would with a mature poinsettia). You should see fresh growth after about four weeks, which indicates that the plant is also growing new roots. At this point, you can remove the plastic bag and care for the plant as usual.
Common Problems With Poinsettia
While many houseplant growing problems are caused by improper light exposure and watering, poinsettias are also likely to experience issues with temperature. Thankfully, it's usually fairly simple to restore this plant back to its healthy, lush state. Here's how to diagnose and treat your plant:
Extreme shifts in temperature can cause your poinsettia to drop leaves. Keep your plant away from cold, drafty spots to keep it growing lush and healthy. It's also important to place it in an area that isn't strongly affected by heating vents to keep the temperature more consistent.
Underwatering your poinsettia can also lead to its leaves dropping. While it's important to never let this species sit in water, it does need a thorough watering each time the soil feels dry to the touch. If temperatures haven't fluctuated recently and your poinsettia's leaves are still falling, it's most likely time to water the plant.
Wilted or Curled Leaves
Since poinsettias are usually sold in foil holiday wrappers, it's common for them to become overwatered and experience root rot. If your plant's leaves begin to turn yellow, wilt, or curl on the ends, it's a sign that its roots are oversaturated with water. Ensure this plant fully drains after watering before placing it back in its original wrapper. You can also transplant your plant to a new container with drainage holes—just be sure to trim away any affected roots before repotting it.
Potting and Repotting Poinsettia
It's best to repot your poinsettia during early summer (usually in May for most regions). Since this species is prone to root rot, opt for a porous terracotta pot that allows excess moisture to escape. Plastic and ceramic pots are also suitable, provided they include plenty of drainage holes without built-in trays that hold water in the bottom.
To repot your plant, gently remove it from its pot and shake away any extra soil. Place it in a container one size larger filled with a well-draining, peat-based mix. Water it thoroughly, allowing it to drain, then resume caring for it in its usual spot.
How to Get Poinsettia to Bloom
It's possible to rebloom your poinsettia plant after the holidays with a few simple tricks. Water as usual until early April, then stop watering and allow the soil to dry out. In May, cut back the foliage so that only about 4 inches of the stems remain. Repot the plant in fresh potting mix.
Resume regular watering and allow the soil to dry out in-between. Once temperatures are above 55 degrees at night in the spring, you can move your plant outdoors—first in a shady spot, then slowly acclimating it to full sun.
Once you see new growth, begin feeding your poinsettia with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength every two weeks. Continue this routine until July. Next, pinch back 1 inch of growth from the end of each stem. Pinch back growth again in early September, removing 2 to 3 inches of terminal growth from the stems.
In early fall, start giving your poinsettia plant 12–14 hours of darkness each day from the beginning of October until Thanksgiving. Simply place it in a dark closet or cover it with a cardboard box to keep the light out each evening. Put it back in its usual sunny spot in the morning. This should trick it into blooming just in time for the holiday season.
Once Thanksgiving arrives, you can leave your plant in its usual spot and stop fertilizing. With a little luck, you'll soon see cheery red blooms to help you celebrate the holidays.
How Long Can a Poinsettia Plant Live?
Poinsettia plants can live for many years when cared for properly, and when growing outdoors in their natural habitat, they're likely to live for 20 years or more. Your poinsettia can live just as long as a houseplant with the proper light, water, temperature, and pruning needs to stay healthy.
How Do You Take Care of a Poinsettia Outside?
If your poinsettia started as an indoor plant, it's best to wait for temperatures to rise above 55 degrees at night (preferably at least 65 to 70 degrees during the day) before moving it outdoors. Slowly acclimate it to the new climate by starting it in a place with bright, indirect light, then gradually move it into full sun. Bring the plant back indoors in the fall.
Are Poinsettias Easy to Care For?
Poinsettias are generally regarded as easy plants to care for. It's important to be mindful of any drafts or heating vents in your home when choosing this plant's location, along with providing direct sunlight when possible.
Where Do Poinsettias Grow Best?
Poinsettias can grow outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 through 11, or indoors in an area with full sun. Bright, indirect light can sometimes be sufficient, but it's best to place your poinsettia near a south-facing window where it will receive direct rays from the sun.
Poinsettias. Poison Control. 2022
Poinsettia. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 2022