How To Take Care Of Poinsettias

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This holiday season, you’re likely to purchase or be given a poinsettia, a traditional winter plant known for its distinctive red leaves. Found in stores, restaurants and homes all over the country, these plants have been valued for centuries, and became popular in the United States in the mid 1800’s. Use this guide on how to take care of poinsettias to keep your seasonal arrangements fresh and healthy.

Poinsettia Facts

  • Poinsettias originate in Mexico.
  • Poinsettias can grow up to 10 feet tall in nature.
  • The Aztecs used poinsettias to create dyes.
  • The red portion of a poinsettia is not a flower, merely more leaves.
  • The actual flowers on a poinsettia appear as yellow berries in the center of the red leaves.
  • The red leaves of a poinsettia are known as bracts.
  • The price of a poinsettia is dependent upon the number of blooms it features.
  • While the most commonly purchased form of poinsettias are red, they also grow in white and pink.
  • Poinsettias are frequently referred to as poisonous, though extremely high amounts of the plant (500 or more bracts) would have to be consumed to induce potential issues, even in children.
  • Most poinsettias grown in the United States are grown in California.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

How To Select A Poinsettia

Before you care for your poinsettia, be sure to select the best one.

  • Fresh poinsettias show little to no yellow berries (the actual flowers of a poinsettia) in the center of the red bracts. Poinsettias with these berries showing are more mature, and will subsequently die sooner.
  • Select a poinsettia with full, shapely leaves, covering the base of the plant. This is an indication that the plant received adequate nutrition while growing, and should be healthy.
  • The green leaves should be dark, while the red bracts should not show much if any green around the edges.
  • Do not buy a red poinsettia with yellowing leaves.
  • Avoid plants that you notice are already wilting, tipping over or drooping.
  • Though popular for seasonal decoration, avoid buying poinsettias sold in plastic sleeves. This will speed up the plant’s deterioration.
  • Select a poinsettia that has been given plenty of space, and is not crowded against other plants. This can cause damage to the leaves and bracts, and knock some off.
  • Examine the poinsettia’s soil. Symptoms of root rot include overly wet soil and a wilted plant.

How To Take Care Of A Poinsettia

Once you have selected a healthy, young poinsettia, take these steps for proper care to ensure a long life for your plant.

  • Though it is a winter plant, poinsettias should not be exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F. The best temperature range for optimal poinsettia growth is between 55 and 70 degrees F.
  • If you have to carry the poinsettia outside in very low temperatures to bring it home, cover the plant with a bag to prevent exposure. Even brief moments in very cold weather can damage the plant.
  • Poinsettias should receive approximately 6 hours of indirect sunlight per day.
  • Do not set a poinsettia directly against a cold glass window. This will damage the bracts.
  • Extreme temperatures of either kind are bad for the plant, and can shorten its life, so do not place it in the path of heaters and cold airflows.
  • If your poinsettia came in a decorative sleeve, you must punch holes in its bottom to allow water to drain through.
  • Check the poinsettia’s soil daily, and water when the soil has become dry.
  • You can apply a houseplant fertilizer to extend your poinsettia’s lifespan.
  • To induce blooming in your poinsettia, place it in total darkness overnight.
  • Placing the poinsettia in a cooler room of your home (55 to 60 degrees F) overnight will help extend the plant’s bloom time.
  • Remove damaged leaves and bracts from the poinsettia.

Selecting and caring for your poinsettia is easy with this simple guide to America’s favorite holiday plant. Picking a full, healthy poinsettia will start you off right, while proper care and maintenance will ensure your plant lasts through the holiday season.


Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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