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How to care for pointsettia indoors or outdoors: complete guide

How to care for pointsettia

Guide to how to care for pointsettia plants, with expert tips for buying, transporting, position, watering, fertilizer and how to turn the leaves red again. The mostly red leaves of the poinsettia decorate many living rooms in winter. With good care, the plants will last for many years and also look great in summer.

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The poinsettia – also known under the name Euphorbia pulcherrima – is one of the most popular indoor plants after the orchid. And this despite the fact that the plant’s sales season only lasts about eight weeks. The plant with the distinctive bracts originally comes from Mexico. Poinsettias grow into tall bushes there. For decades, breeders have been working on further developing the smaller specimens.

The colored leaves of the poinsettia are not flowers

The poinsettia is often grown in greenhouses and will be on sale from the beginning of NovemberThe variety of colors is huge and constantly increasing: from red to salmon pink to yellow and creamy white. Despite numerous new breeds, red remains the classic. Incidentally, the colored part of the plants is not flowers, but discolored bracts. The flowers themselves are rather inconspicuous. They are small, yellow and sit in the middle of the bracts.

The red poinsettia is classic – lighter pink tones and yellowish-orange bracts are also becoming more common. In 2017, almost 80 percent of poinsettias sold were red, followed by white or cream-colored ones at 11 percent. Two-tone and speckled poinsettias came to around five percent, and pink or pink-colored plants to four percent. Salmon, cinnamon and yellow as coloring were rather rare.

Good to know: lighter shades are mainly available at the beginning of the poinsettia season. This is why florists like to call them “autumn stars” at this time. The care always remains the same.

How to care for pointsettia plants

Despite its delicate appearance, the poinsettia is quite robust, and if you follow the rules below on how to care for pointsettia, you will be rewarded with a healthy and vibrant plant.

Choosing a pointsettia

Red, white, yellow or pink poinsettias can be found in many shops in the run-up to Christmas. We advise you to buy the poinsettia in a specialist shop so that you can enjoy the colorful splendor of the leaves for a long time. 

Only here is the right care available for the plants and you get healthy flowers that will give you pleasure for a long time. The poinsettia must be well packaged during transport because it is sensitive to the cold. Therefore, if possible, avoid stalls that sell it outdoors. 

  • Pay attention to the small flowers. They hide between the large, colored leaves and are hardly noticeable. They should be closed when you buy them so that the plant continues to flower as long as possible.
  • Take a close look at the green as well as the colored leaves. Both should be free from discoloration.
  • Check the plant for pest infestation.
  • Look at the potting soil. It shouldn’t be too dry or too damp.
  • Check the site conditions. The poinsettia should also be in the shop as light as possible and without drafts.

When buying, the yellow-green flowers should be budding between the colored bracts. If most of them are already open or even fallen off, these plants are already past their flowering period. 

You don’t have to buy poinsettias every year; if you know how to care for pointsettia, they will last for many years and grow into handsome shrubs. Varieties with dark foliage are more durable than those with light leaves. 

How to tell whether your poinsettia is healthy from the leaves

  • Leaves are yellow : Too much moisture and damaged roots. Water the plant only moderately. The root ball can get dry as long as it doesn’t dry out completely. Earth too wet? Just let it dry for a few days. If the soil is completely soaked, repot it.
  • Blotchy leaves and brown leaf margins: Not enough nutrients. If your poinsettia is older, you can add some commercially available plant fertilizer to the irrigation water.
  • Green leaves fall out: Cold or drafts or surroundings that are too dark – the poinsettia doesn’t like it at all below 12 degrees and a bright location is good for it.
  • Leaves are dry and drooping: Is your plant above a heater, is the room temperature very high or is it in the blazing sun? Then pour a little more: it is best to immerse it in water once a week, drain well and cut off completely dried out stems and leaves.

How to care for pointsettia: the right location

As a tropical plant, the poinsettia prefers a warm and bright location. It can only tolerate direct sunlight to a limited extent and is sensitive to cold drafts.

The right location is therefore very important. The poinsettia comes from Latin America and loves it sunny and warm. The poinsettia does not require any demanding maintenance, but for pointsettia care indoors, it needs a sunny spot on the window sill. Since the sun does not shine as intensely during the winter months, you can also place your poinsettia in a south-facing window.

In how to care for a pointsettia indoors correctly, always make sure that the poinsettia does not stand over a turned-on heater. When caring for the plant, it is important that it is not too warm. It should be a maximum of 20 degrees. But it doesn’t like it too cold either. After buying your poinsettia, wrap it in newspaper and bring it home quickly to a warm place. If possible, avoid cold drafts when choosing a location — this is crucial in how to care for a poinsettia!

How to care for pointsettia: watering

The poinsettia is a fairly undemanding houseplant that requires little care and attention. But what you should absolutely avoid is excessive watering. 

The plant does not like waterlogging at all, and this should always be avoided in how to care for a poinsettia. Watering in an immersion bath instead of regular watering is particularly good for the poinsettia. To do this, the almost dry root ball is taken out of the pot and immersed in water for a few minutes. Then lift the plant, drain the excess water and put it back in the planter. 

During the flowering period in winter it is sufficient to put a little room-warm water in the flower pot every few days. If you use a planter pot, this allows excess water to run off. Check for water a few minutes after watering in the cachepot and pour it off. Poinsettias don’t like waterlogging at all.

If you have watered it too heavily, the brightly colored leaves will turn yellow. It is better to water too little than too much. Hanging leaves due to underwatering recover quickly when the poinsettia replenishes with proper watering.

How to care for pointsettia: fertlizer

In proper steps on how to care for poinsettia, fertilization also plays a role. The plants are used to nutrient-poor soils, but if the leaves show light spots or the edges turn brown, they need more nutrients. 

In this case, water your poinsettia with a little normal plant fertilizer. Once a month is completely sufficient. During the flowering period, water the poinsettia with a complete fertilizer once or twice a week according to the instructions.

How do I get a poinsettia red again?

If the star has lost all of its colored bracts in spring, lush green leaves grow back in summer. The plant flowers mainly from November to January or February. But if you have an older and branched, well-cared for specimen at home, you can even count on flowers almost all year round – as long as the poinsettia does not receive more than twelve hours of light a day. 

Because it is actually the darkness that provides the color of the characteristic bracts – although the plant still needs sun. In order for these to change color naturally and to form new flowers, the plant may receive a maximum of twelve hours of light per day in autumn. 

From October onwards, it should either stand for about two months in a room that is dark from the early evening or be covered with a bucket, cardboard box, or black foil for at least 12 to 14 hours every day. In the warm season, the plant can also stand outside – preferably in partial shade.

Milky sap from poinsettias is slightly toxic

Since poinsettias belong to the milkweed family, a white liquid emerges from the stem when it is cut. This milky juice is slightly toxic and can lead to skin irritation or symptoms similar to poisoning, such as nausea or abdominal pain. Contact with the milk juice is harmless for adults, a critical dose is not known. 

However, children and especially small animals are sensitive to the plant poison. In an emergency, drink plenty of first aid. When consuming larger amounts, one should take charcoal tablets. If necessary, consult a doctor.

How to propagate poinsettias by cuttings

With good care, a cutting quickly turns into a beautiful houseplant with lush green leaves. If you want to multiply a purchased poinsettia, you can do this with the help of cuttings. 

Cuttings should have four to five leaves and should be placed in a glass of warm water immediately after cutting so that the flow of the milky juice is stopped. Then put the cuttings in potting soil that has been mixed with coarse sand. A root leaven accelerates the attack on the cuttings.

Suitable for the vase

Before the houseplant became popular in heated living rooms in the 1950s, the poinsettia was mainly available as a cut flower. It still looks good in the vase today. For the longest possible lifespan of up to two weeks, place the stems in hot water for about 15 minutes after cutting or hold them over a candle flame, is the expert tip. This prevents the milk juice from running out. They are then placed in fresh water that has previously been enriched with a flower freshness-retaining agent.

Poinsettias are suitable as souvenirs or festive table decorations. So-called minis can be used, for example, as place cards that guests can take with them later as a souvenir. Medium-sized plants – the so-called midis – can be arranged in a classic or unusual way.

How to decorate with poinsettias

The popular Christmas plant of the Germans conjures up a bit of a Christmassy atmosphere in your own home due to its bright colors. With the right decoration ideas, your poinsettia, which is already very attractive, comes into its own even more.

For example, the flower pot for the poinsettia can be customized. If you like it unusual, you can put the vessel in a fur costume. Plastic fur is very suitable for sheathing the pot. If you prefer wooden materials, you can also paint a wooden vessel white or another color of your choice and stick various accessories, such as color-coordinated ribbons, on it. 

The poinsettias in shimmering gold pots look a bit more splendid and festive. Curly branches, such as those from the corkscrew willow, that rise between the flower leaves go well with this.

Decoration ideas with poinsettia: the CD box

You can create unusual decorations with empty CD cases, from which you can make a modern, square vessel for your poinsettia. You can fill the empty cases with different ingredients. Pine needles, for example, are well suited. Cut these to match the sleeves and put them in four empty sleeves. 

If you want to give away the poinsettia, you can also insert a greeting card cut to fit the CD case. Many possibilities are conceivable. You need a fifth shell for the bottom of the vessel. Hot glue or silicone is suitable for attaching the individual covers.

Pointsettia alternative to Christmas tree

You can create an exciting alternative to the classic Christmas tree with an oversized cake stand, which you decorate with numerous poinsettias. Pine cones, Christmas balls, cinnamon sticks, apples and so on also go well with this. Let yourself be inspired by the impressive plant arrangement.

Advent wreaths

Poinsettias look great in the Advent wreath. If you like it classic, you can use poinsettias to create an elegant arrangement. To do this, cut a strip of fabric to the size of the chosen vessel. Fold the strip of fabric lengthways and place it over the edge of the container as a collar, fix it on both sides with hot glue. 

Set the poinsettia and finally stick shiny or matt balls on wire into the earth. It is even easier to decorate flower pots with beautiful glossy paper that matches the color of the poinsettia. Cut the paper to size and attach it to the pot with glue or tape.

Materials such as felt or fake fur are a little more unusual and a deliberate contrast to the plant. You can use it to stick on pots and simple vases or to make a suitable bag that is then pulled over the pot or vase.

genevieve dumas new Genevieve Dumas is a design, fashion, food and style writer who has worked on major magazines and mastheads in the United States and Europe.