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The Poinsettia: A houseplant that's not just for Christmas

It’s December and you’ve decorated your home with festive garlands, dried citrus fruits, and a Christmas tree. Whether you favour a traditional Christmas colour scheme of red, green, and gold, or you prefer a modern décor scheme, nothing says Christmas like the star-shaped flower of a poinsettia.

Red, pink and white poinsettias bird's eye view

There’s no denying that they look beautiful, but do you have trouble keeping poinsettias alive through the Christmas period and beyond? Not to worry, your ‘euphorbia pulcherrima’ as it’s known in Latin, doesn’t have to be a one hit wonder like East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’. (It really was their only UK No.1 – I checked.)

If you’d like to be more sustainable this Christmas, then make sure your Poinsettia is here to stay with this care guide, which will tell you how to keep your seasonal houseplant healthy until Christmas comes around next year. Read on for poinsettia care tips galore!

Red poinsettia held above garden centre display

What is a Poinsettia?

Native to the mountainous slopes of Mexico, the poinsettia is a houseplant that traditionally lives in seasonally dry tropical rainforests. Doing best in average temperatures of around 16-21 degrees centigrade, poinsettias can grow to be the size of a large shrub. They form large, star-shaped flowers, that are actually coloured leaves.

Now produced commercially in nurseries for the houseplant market, poinsettias have been adapted to make them the perfect winter houseplant. Both white and red poinsettias have been found in the wild, but domestic plants now come in a range of colours, including pink and splashed variegations.

Flowering with a display of large, globular balls that are surrounded by colourful leaf bracts, the poinsettia reproduces when days become shorter. They react best to a natural light cycle that’s dependent on the seasons and become less active in summer months. However, they can be annually re-displayed at Christmas.

Fun fact: Poinsettias are also native to some of our favourite Christmas films! How many poinsettias can you count in the festive classic, ‘Home Alone’?

Pink poinsettia with lights in background

How do I choose the right Poinsettia?

First things first, poinsettias can be a little dramatic. Don’t let that put you off though, as even the least experienced plant parent can keep them looking perky! It might be tempting to go for the first poinsettia you see, but you should take a moment to consider the plant’s environment before you buy it.

Only buy poinsettias that are kept in an indoor space, because they don’t do well in draughts. Avoid plants that are kept outside stores or in unheated spaces, because it’s likely they will drop their leaves from stress just after you buy them. Care for your plant on its way home by asking for a wrapping that will shelter it from the cold.

TOP TIP: Take your time to consider whether you trust the store you’re shopping at to care for plants, and make sure your poinsettia is in a good condition before purchasing. If you suspect that the poinsettias have been kept in a cold space for a while, then find one somewhere else.

The below photo shows poinsettias being stored above refrigerators in the vegetable aisle of a supermarket. Don’t buy these!

Poinsettias above refrigerators in a supermarket

How do I care for my Poinsettia through the Christmas season?

Poinsettias can be pernickety about their care, but we can break down their basic needs into four areas; soil mix, watering, fertiliser, and light.

Soil mix: Poinsettias need a well-draining soil medium such as a chunky houseplant mix.

Watering: They need to be well-watered throughout the winter period. Be aware that overwatering will result in soggy soil that will make your plant unhappy, and underwatering may cause it to look sad and droopy.

Fertiliser: Your poinsettia is flowering, so you need to be attentive to its needs and potentially fertilise it with a houseplant feed or potassium-heavy feed like tomato fertiliser.

Light: Poinsettias do best in bright, indirect light in a warm room.

TOP TIP: Be cautious not to place your poinsettia on a draughty windowsill or too close to a radiator as they are very susceptible to changes in temperature and air movement.

What do I do with my Poinsettia once Christmas is over?

Poinsettias on display in a home

Poinsettias flower in December and January. Once they’ve finished reproducing, they can be moved away from bright windows. As spring comes around, the sun’s rays get brighter and stronger, so move your plant into a shadier place to rest until next winter.

Repot your poinsettia in spring into a nursery pot that befits the size of the roots and plant. You usually need to go only 1-2 pot sizes bigger than the pot the plant is already in. Prune your poinsettia back hard, to about ten centimetres of growth, giving it an opportunity to grow back next winter.

Store your poinsettia in a cool area throughout summer, ideally not any higher than about eighteen degrees centigrade, but around thirteen is more appropriate. Feed your poinsettia with a high potassium feed, such as tomato food, as we head into autumn.

When autumn finally arrives, keep your plant away from artificial lights so that it follows the natural cycle of the sun. Your poinsettia needs to know that the seasons are heading towards winter so that it can start to flower and produce colourful leaf bracts. Temperatures need to be around eighteenth degrees centigrade to fully encourage leaf bracts to colour.

TOP TIP: If you’re able to find a spot for your poinsettia that’s dark for 12 hours a day, then that’s even better! The less light, the better, for poinsettias in winter months.

Don’t panic if your poinsettia starts to grow taller, this is its natural inclination when not treated with a suppressant hormone. You may think yours is leggy, but you can always trim it back down, come springtime next year!

Poinsettias on display at a garden centre

Poinsettia Care for Every Season

That’s everything you need to know about caring for Poinsettias through Christmas and into the new year. So, why not be more sustainable and try keeping yours to flower for a second Christmas?

This article was originally written for Garden Folk Mag and appeared in the December 2023 issue. You can check out the whole magazine, which features outdoor gardening advice and recipes for Christmas cocktails and seasonal treats.

Let me know how you get on keeping your poinsettia alive by sharing your photos on Instagram and tagging @theplantparlourgram.



Hi, thanks for dropping in to read The Plant Papers!

I'm Gemma and I'm the person behind The Plant Parlour. I have a huge collection of rare plants, that I keep in my home in the South of England.

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