How to Care for a Poinsettia

Poinsettia The Poinsettia has become synonymous with Christmas

How to look after a Poinsettia and a guide to reproducing that wonderful colourful display again next Christmas.

Howthe Poinsettia is a symbol of Christmas. Commercial growers spend months and years dedicated to producing vast crops of these stunning foliage houseplants for the Christmas period. Such is the Poinsttiaís popularity that many growers rely on them as their sole crop and source of income.

The proper Latin name for the Poinsettia is Euphorbia pulcherrima. All the commercially grown Poinsettia cultivars are derived from Euphorbia pulcherrima which is a native of the Sierra Madre region of Mexico where it can be found growing on forest edges.

The renowned Christmas display of scarlet foliage (there are also popular white, salmon, and pink cultivars) develops on modified leaves called bracts. The striking colours are obtained by subjecting the Poinsettias to a strict regime of restricted daylight hours during October and November.

Commercial growers often have years of expertise and experience in growing Poinsettias. They also have access to dwarfing hormones that keep their crops stocky and bushy. It is therefore difficult for the amateur enthusiast to produce similar results; but if you fancy having a go, here are some tips for caring for your Poinsettia throughout the year and a guide to colouring up those bracts for next Christmas:

  1. When the coloured bracts begin to look tired and spent in late winter and early spring start to let the the compost dry out. Do not be concerned if the Poinsettia drops itís leaves and bracts at this stage.
  2. In early spring, cut the Poinsettia back by half to two-thirds, only leaving the strongest stems. Aim to cut back just above a leaf node. After cutting back, soak the compost by standing in a bucket of water.
  3. New shoots should develop in subsequent weeks, it is now time to make sure that the Poinsettia is located in good but not bright, direct sunlight.
  4. Continue to water regularly, letting the compost start to dry out between waterings. Also feed fortnightly with a balanced liquid feed throughout late spring and the summer season. A room temperature of approx. 16C (60F) is ideal.
  5. Mist leaves regularly (remembering that Euphorbia pulcherrima is a woodland native of Mexico where humidity levels are likely to be high). Whilst it is important to maintain good humidity levels, it is also very important not to overwater all houseplants.
  6. For the whole of October and November the Poinsettia needs to have a strict regime of controlled daylight hours. Place the Poinsettia in complete darkness, even avoid artificial light in living rooms. The Poinsettia needs to be put in cupboard or box each night for 14 hours per 24 hours.

Caring for a Poinsettia throughout the year and being precise about itís requirements is a labour of love. But it will be very rewarding next Christmas when you can admire the stunning colours of your handiwork.

See our plant profile on the Poinsettia: Euphorbia pulcherrima.


Filed under House Plants.

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