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Christmas poinsettia plant

Perfect Poinsettia Christmas Plant: A beginner’s guide to growth and care

Seasons Greeting! You’re here because you either have a Poinsettia or you plan on getting a Poinsettia.  You’ve seen them just about everywhere and now you want to wander into the heavenly world of plants to decorate your home and spread some Christmas cheer!

Well, you have come to the right place.  I am going to take you on a Poinsettia journey like no other.  You’re going to learn all there is to know about this wonderful plant.

First thing – it doesn’t take a lot of care to keep these plants happy. 

In this post I am going to cover basically what you need to know to take care and grow your Poinsettia.

Below is a list of the topics I am going to run through with you.  If you want, you can jump to the bit information that interests you the most.  Just click on the topic and it will take you directly there.

Poinsettia Plant Care during the Holiday Season

Poinsettia are the classic holiday season plant.  Their bright red leaves add a splash of colour and really give the feeling of Christmas.

How to Choose a Poinsettia Plant

Look at the plant and check for red colouration of the leaves (also known as bracts).  Make sure all the bracts up top are fully red.

Check out where the Poinsettias are displayed in the store.  If they are displayed near an entrance where the doors are continuously opening and closing, they will be exposed to variations in temperature and draughts.  If you see them displayed in such a location, where a lot of wind will flow through, don’t get those ones as they probably won’t last as long.

If it’s a wind day, ask to have the Poinsettia wrapped all the way up and protect it because they don’t like wind.

Poinsettia will not perform well if exposed to extreme heat or cold.

Choose a Poinsettia that has well formed little yellow blooms in the middle.

Finally, you want your Poinsettia to look nice and bushy.

Temperature Requirements for Poinsettia

First thing you need to look at is where you are going to place your Poinsettia.  Ideally, you want to put it where it’s not too hot and not too cold.  For your Poinsettia grow, it needs to be in a space where the temperature does not go below 15C, otherwise it won’t grow. And you don’t want Poinsettia in a space which exceeds 23C. 

Generally speaking, if you keep the temperature above 15C and below 25C you are giving you Poinsettia the ideal condition to keep it happy, and if it’s happy it will grow!

Don’t place your Poinsettia where it’s going to get too hold or too cold.  For example, near a window.  If the leaves are pressed against the glass.  It’s going to get direct sunlight, and get too hot during the day.  During the night it will get too cold.  This will affect the leaves on that side and shorten its life span.

Light Requirements for Poinsettia

Poinsettia’s love light.  More bright indirect sunlight the healthier they will be.  Poinsettia need about 6-7 hours of bright indirect sunlight.  So, you want to aim for medium to bright light!

Watering Requirements for Poinsettia

What’s so good about Poinsettia plants, is that you just need to water it when the top soil is dry to touch.  When you see the soil is dry water it thoroughly.  Allow the water to pass through twice, making sure all sides of the pot are watered.  Wait for the water to drain away, making sure the bottom of the pot is not dripping, and put it back in the pot.

Now is a good time for me to talk about water types. Just like we love great tasting water, plants do too.  It’s useful to know the type of water you are using. Tap water can contain harmful chemicals, like chlorine and fluorine, which can affect certain plants.  If you are concerned you can use distilled water.

To sum it up, during the Holiday Season, Poinsettia just need to be positioned in the right place for light and temperature.  Water when dry and keep away from draughts.

Christmas poinsettia plant

Choosing the Right Pot for Poinsettia

Any type of pot is ok, just make sure it has a really good size drainage hole.  You really don’t want water filling up the pot at the bottom.  This is where you can get into trouble because if the roots stay in water they can rot.  Then the plant is unhappy.

Another good idea to keep roots healthy is to put a layer of gravel at the base of the pot to elevate the roots and protect them from sitting in water.

Repotting Your Poinsettia

Poinsettia can be enjoyed as an indoor or outdoor plant after the holiday season.  The ideal time to repot your Poinsettia is mid-Autumn.  Doing it this time of the year gives the plant time to establish roots.  It has the whole growing season ahead to grow new foliage and fill out the pot. Start off with a pot that has good drainage holes  When choosing a pot, go for one that is 2-4cm larger than the original pot.  Fertilise once a month after repotting. Like most plants, Poinsettia does not do well if its roots sit in water.  Next you want to trim back the Poinsettia.  Do this before you repot it.  Trim back about 2/3 the size of the plant.

After the Poinsettia is repotted, put it in a coolish zone.

Best Soil for Poinsettia

There are two ways you can go with soil – you can buy potting soil or you can make your own using the following combination, keeping in mind that you want to create a soil that is rich in nutrients and loose in texture.

  • 60% peat moss or coco coir
  • 20% pumice, coarse sand or perlite
  • 20% organic matter

Just make sure your soil types do not have water retentive gels because that will clog up the soil with moisture when you really want the soil to dry out naturally.

So, summing up, the soil needs to be organic, sterile and loose.

Fertilising Your Poinsettia

Fertilise your Poinsettia after it has finished flowering.  Leave fertilising until after the holiday season, where you can use a standard liquid fertiliser.  If you fertilise during the holiday season you may disrupt their flowering and shorten its lifespan.  During the holiday season, apply standard care to your Poinsettia, as mentioned above – well positioned, for sunlight and draughts, and watering when top soil is dry.

Getting your Poinsettia ready for the next Holiday Season

Around the start of August you want to pinch back the tips a little.  At this time period, your Poinsettia won’t look like it was at the time your purchased it.  I mean, the bracts won’t be red.  Pinch it back in such a way to encourage bushing, and creating a nice bushy shape.  To get your Poinsettia looking great for the next season you have to force the Poinsettia to flower.  To do this, create a space where it will live in the darkness for 12-15 hours a day, for a at least a few weeks from late September to early October. Or you could cover it so it does not get too much sunlight.  This process will make the leaves turn red and force it to flower.

Air Purifying

Just quick note that NASA Clean Air Study found that if you have plants in your living space they can absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis.  And how amazingly good is it know we are breathing in nice, clean air!  It’s fair to say that plants not only look good, but they make for a healthier living space.

Shaping

I like to rotate my smaller Poinsettia plants as they will lean out and grow toward the sunlight, which can affect its shape.  Pinch back the bracts to at the time of repotting to create a nice bushy shape.

Planting Your Poinsettia Outdoors

If you decide you want to try to grow your Poinsettia outdoors, be mindful of the temperature it will be living in.  If the temperature drops to 25C, that is a good time to transition to outdoors.  If you want it to grow bigger, give your Poinsettia more access to indirect sunlight.  Try for more morning light with afternoon shade.

Where do Poinsettia Originate From?

Knowing where Poinsettia plants grow in their natural habitat gives us a better understanding to take care of them and how they grow.

Poinsettia is a flowering plant native to the warm tropical forests of Central America – from Mexico to southern Guatemala.  Most wild populations are on Pacific-facing slopes in steep canyons, which protects them from winds and keeps them in a stable climate.

The Aztecs were the first to cultivate Poinsettia.  They used it to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication to reduce fever.

Poinsettia’s botanical name is Euforbia pulcherrima.  The plant was named after a botanist named Joel Roberts Poinsett.  He sent Poinsettia’s back to his home in South Carolina in the late 1800s. 

Poinsettia names around the world

In Mexico and Guatemala, Poinsettia is known as flor de Nochebuena, meaning ‘Christmas Eve Flower’.

In Spain it is known as Flor de Pascua meaning ‘Easter Flower’.

In Italy, it is called Stella di Natale, meaning ‘Christmas Star’.

In Germany, it is known as Weihnachtensstern meaning ‘Christmas Star’.

Why are Poinsettia red?

The Poinsettia leaves are red because they placed in the dark from 5pm to 8am for a period of time prior to the holiday season.

What does Poinsettia symbolise?

The shape of the flower and leaf are thought to symbolise the star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus.  The coloured red leaves symbolise the blood of Christ.

When did Poinsettia become associated with Christmas?

The Poinsettia was first associated with Christmas in South Mexico in the 1600’s when Franciscan priests used colourful leaves and bracts to adorn extravagant nativity scenes.

Can you keep Poinsettia all year round?

Yes, you can keep Poinsettia all year round.  After the holiday season you can repot your Poinsettia.

Is Poinsettia outdoor or indoor?

Put simply, they can be kept both inside and outdoors.  Their natural habitat is in the forests of Mexico and Central America where the climate is warm.  They grow in canyons which protects them from wind.  Just make sure it gets indirect sunlight and is protected from wind and frosts.

How do you take care of Poinsettia after Christmas?

  • Poinsettia enjoy room temperature between 16C and 25C.
  • Keep Poinsettia away from draughts.
  • Expose the plant to indirect sunlight during the daytime.

Interesting Poinsettia Facts

  • In its native environment, Poinsettia can grow to the size of a shrub (about 60 cm) to a tree (4 metres)
  • There are hundreds of different varieties – white and pink for example – however red is the most popular.

Glossary

Bracts The red leaves are called bracts and the flower is the yellow blossom in the centre of the plant.

Photosynthesis – The process where plants create carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water using light as an energy source.

Phototropism – Where the plant grows towards the light.

Bringing it all together

Poinsettia are the classic Christmas plant to enjoy and give.  They are a plant last well beyond the holiday season with the right care.  They thrive in a location that gets indirect sunlight and is protected from draughts.  Water Poinsettia when the top soil is dry to touch.  Allow water to drain through, meaning you don’t want the roots to sit in water.  You can fertilise Poinsettia after the holiday season with a liquid fertiliser.  Repot your Poinsettia around March if you want it to thrive and grow.  Keep your Poinsettia in the dark for a period of time before the next Holiday season if you want the bracts to turn red.

Well, that wraps up all I know about Poinsettia.  Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope you found it useful and interesting.  Have fun taking care of your Poinsettia.  Let me know how you go.  I would love to hear from you.  Please leave your comments and questions below and I will try to answer them the best I can.

Hermina Bevilacqua