Quick Poinsettia Facts:
- Botanical name - Euphorbia pulcherrima
- Height - 3 to 12 feet (0.9 to 3.7 meters)
- Spread - 3 to 8 feet (0.9 to 2.4 meters)
- Sun exposure - Partial shade
- Soil requirements - Light, well-drained
- Hardiness zones - 9 to 11
- When to plant - late spring, anytime indoors
How do you take care of poinsettias? Carefully. These finicky short-day plants require specific growing needs in order to retain their Christmas blooms. However, with proper care, your holiday poinsettia should continue to put out blooms, or in the least remain attractive for weeks after.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a classic holiday plant, known for its festive red bracts set against green leaves. Poinsettia care indoors for the duration of the season is easy. More challenging is growing it outdoors in the right climate or keeping it as a year-round houseplant.
How to Care for a Poinsettia
If you live in a climate warm enough for this tropical native, you can grow poinsettia outdoors year round.
Choose a location outside for your poinsettia that gets partial shade. Be sure the spot you choose is big enough for a small shrubby tree. Potted poinsettias are small, but when grown outside, they can grow ten feet (3) tall and higher.
Poinsettias do best with consistent moisture, but they will not tolerate soggy soil. This can lead to root rot.
Temperature & Humidity
You can grow poinsettia outside in areas where the temperature rarely drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 C). The ideal temperature range for poinsettia is between 50 and 75 degrees (10 to 24 C).
The best soil for poinsettia is light and drains well. Amend your soil if it is heavy, high in clay, or doesn’t drain readily.
Use an all-purpose fertilizer with poinsettia. Apply it when you first put it in the ground. Continue to fertilize the poinsettia about once a month throughout the growing season.
The best time to prune an outdoor poinsettia is in spring. Shaping it then will encourage the kind of growth you want for the season. Trim off any dead or broken branches and leaves. Trim branches back leaving a few leaves at the base. If you want a small, bushy poinsettia, trim branches aggressively.
Problems, Pests & Diseases
Root rot is one of the most common issues with poinsettia. Avoid it by ensuring the soil drains and by avoiding overwatering. Pests you might see on your poinsettia include mealybugs, whitefly, scale, and red spider mites.
Poinsettia As A Houseplant
Indoor poinsettia care begins with proper light, water, and temperature conditions. During the holidays, while in full bloom, they typically enjoy semi-cool, humid locations in bright, indirect light with plenty of moisture.
Water poinsettia plants thoroughly, taking care not to drown them by ensuring adequate drainage is available. Likewise, avoid letting them sit in water-filled saucers, which can lead to root rot. Adding plants nearby can help increase humidity levels in dry rooms, as will humidifiers.
How to Keep a Poinsettia Alive After the Holidays
Most people grow poinsettia as a holiday houseplant and then toss it once it has stopped flowering. Knowing how to take care of it outside of the holiday season is key to getting a poinsettia to rebloom:
- Once the flowers, bracts, and many of the leaves have died and dropped off, reduce watering and let the soil dry completely.
- Store your dormant poinsettia in a dark, cool area of the house, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).
- Water infrequently, just enough to prevent the woody growth from shriveling.
- Repot the poinsettia in mid-spring.
- In the new pot, cut the stems back to about six inches (15 cm) above the soil.
- Water the poinsettia very well and set it by a sunny, warm window. Water regularly as the soil dries.
- When new growth appears, begin fertilizing the poinsettia.
- Place the pot outside when temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or higher.
- Bring the poinsettia back inside in late summer or early fall and place it by a sunny window. Continue watering and fertilizing regularly.
Poinsettia flower growth is triggered by long nights. From about October 1, ensure your poinsettia gets 13 hours of darkness per night. Any light during this period will delay flowering. Use a dark room or place a box over the pot.
The best way to propagate a poinsettia is by taking stem cuttings. Cut several inches off a stem and remove the lower leaves. For the best results, use a rooting hormone on the cut end and place it in a light soilless potting mix. Keep the cutting in the shade and use a cover to retain moisture. You should have transferable roots in about four weeks.
Growers have developed many cultivars of poinsettia to meet the demand during the holiday season. Here are some pretty poinsettia varieties to look for:
- Prestige Red is a classic red variety.
- Early Orion Red is a good choice for early Christmas decorating.
- Ice Punch has bright red bracts and a white center.
- Marco Polo has peachy-colored bracts.
- Mars Pink displays deep pink bracts with yellow flower in the centers.
- Mars White is a great choice for a white variety.
- Sonora White Glitter is a unique variety with white-speckled red bracts.
Are Poinsettias Poisonous?
Poinsettias have a reputation for being highly toxic, but this is a fallacy. The sap, however, can be irritating or can trigger an allergic reaction. Use gloves when pruning poinsettias for this reason.
Knowing how to look after a poinsettia, indoors, outside, or year-round will help you enjoy these pretty plants any time of year.
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