The poinsettia (botanical name: Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a commercially important plant species. It derives from the diverse spurge family and is indigenous to Mexico. It’s celebrated for its bold red and green foliage and is the UK’s number one houseplant during the Christmas season (and it’s easy to see why!)
More about the Poinsettia
Because of their hot red hue, poinsettias are often referred to as the lobster flower or the flame-leaf flower. This plant blooms in the months of December and January, one of the reasons (asides from their festive hot hues) that they are considered to be the ultimate Christmas decoration. Some would say they’re as popular as the Christmas tree. Another reason for their popularity is that they’re extremely easy to care for.
Red is the most prevalent hue and one of the most widely available poinsettia varieties. However, specialist poinsettia breeders now stock more than 150 different varieties, including poinsettia plants in various shades, such as pretty pinks, vibrant oranges, soft creams, and minimalistic whites.
Red poinsettias are the best-sellers though, closely followed by white and cream varieties. There are also a number of bicolored and speckled cultivars to choose from, meaning there are a style and shade to suit all tastes. If you’re unsure which hue you like best, it’s wise to do some research online prior to purchasing.
With their cutesy, festive star-shaped leaf bracts, poinsettia plants are now known as Christmas Stars in many languages, including in Italian: ‘Stella di Natale’, and German: ‘Weihnachtsstern’.
The oversized, hot-hued bracts are commonly mistaken for flower petals, when in fact they are leaves. The blooms are instead the small, delicate yellow berry-like structures, which sit at the center of each leaf bract. These are called cyathia.
Tips and best practice
When it comes to keeping your poinsettia plants in tip-top condition over the Christmas period, there are a number of factors to consider, the most important of which we’ve listed below:
- Where to buy poinsettia plants
Many online florists stock this picture-perfect plant, some of which are available for same and next day delivery. For best results, it’s important to ensure you pick a healthy poinsettia plant, complete with bracts that are intact. It’s also important to make sure the yellow buds that sit between the colored bracts are tightly closed. This will ensure the plant lasts as long as possible.
You should also consider the poinsettia’s soil. It should be neither bone dry nor dripping wet. In addition to this, it’s wise to protect your new plant from the wind.
Poinsettias don’t require a lot of water. Providing the plant’s root bale isn’t dry or drenched, they will flourish. Overwatering can, however, lead to waterlogging, which in most cases causes root rot. If left untreated, the plant will die. For best results, get into the habit of inspecting your plant’s leaves. If they’re looking a little yellow or falling off, you’re probably not watering your plant in the right way. A small amount once every two days will suffice, or if you’ve chosen to immerse the entire root bale in water, rather than pouring, then just one dip per week will do. One point to note is that smaller pots tend to require more watering than bigger pots, and for best results, use water at room temperature.
- Other requirements
Poinsettias require both warmth and light to thrive. You can place them close to a radiator but they must be kept away from droughts. Avoid open windows and breezy hallways. It’s important to place the plant in a location that attracts daylight, such as on a windowsill. The plant’s ideal temperature falls between 15°C – 20°C.
- Life after Christmas
To ensure your plant survives until the following year, you will need to prune the poinsettia in April, to a height of around 10cm, while keeping it at a temperature of 13°C. When May arrives, you should re-pot your poinsettia and place it in a cool and light place over summer. For best results, choose a location that offers a temperature of 15°C – 18°C.
When November arrives, now is the time to start forcing the plant. Poinsettia necessitates bright daylight followed by a significant period hour of darkness. This will prepare it for the shorter days of winter, which will, in turn, encourage the red flowers to bloom.
How to get a poinsettia plant to re-bloom
Making a Poinsettia re-bloom isn’t as difficult as you may think! In the months of March or April, simply resume regular watering and fertilizing. Follow this step by pruning the plant to about six inches from the top of the pot or vessel it sits in and then re-pot. If you wish to move your plant outside, you can keep these species outdoors in a protected sunny area during the summer months.
How to keep your poinsettia alive for as long as possible
Today’s poinsettia variants last longer than ever, often for months on end providing they are cared for in the correct manner. To help you stay in tip-top condition, place your poinsettia in an area that boasts indirect light as soon as you bring it home. Poinsettias require around six hours of light per day. Fluorescent light will work if you live in an area that doesn’t get much light or if you live in an apartment without a garden.
Can you keep poinsettias outside?
While poinsettias can be kept indoors throughout the months of summer, many people like to move them outside when the weather warms up. If you’re one of these people, pick a spot that gets lots of suns, yet is still sheltered. Once you’ve found the perfect location, sink the pot into the ground. To encourage blooming, poinsettia plants require long periods of darkness at night – this can be difficult to achieve, so you may wish to use bags or an alternative covering to reduce the amount of light the plant is exposed to.