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Choosing and Caring for a Poinsettia Plant

I love poinsettias. My favorites are still the big red ones.

Red poinsettias are the most popular.

Red poinsettias are the most popular.

Caring for Poinsettias

When most people think of poinsettias, they think about bright red plants with huge red blooms. Hybridizers have now developed the plants into many pastel colors. My favorites are still the big red ones. Here you will find all the information you will need to purchase, care for, and get your poinsettias to re-bloom.

How to Choose a Healthy Poinsettia

  • If possible, purchase a plant that does not have plastic wrap around the leaves. The plastic puts off gases that aren’t good for it and will cause leaf drop. If your only choice is a plant wrapped in plastic, remove it as soon as you arrive home.
  • If the plant is already dropping leaves at the store, don’t purchase it. The poinsettia will never recover.
  • Look to see if the plant has little yellow blooms in the middle of the red leaves. The yellow blooms are actually the flower of the plant. If these aren’t present, the plant is already old.
  • Look for white flies. Turn the leaves over, and if you see little white bumps on the bottom of the leaves or little white flies, put the plant right back and don’t purchase. Don’t purchase another poinsettia from that store either, because even though you can’t see the white flies on other plants, they will soon be infested.
  • Keep the plant covered with a shopping bag after purchasing it if it will be exposed to winter weather conditions. In cold areas, make sure that it is exposed to cold air as little as possible when transporting it home. Never place it in a cold trunk. Poinsettias don’t like temperatures below 50 degrees.

Poinsettia Light and Temperature Requirements

Poinsettias have specific light and temperature requirements.

Light Requirements

Because a poinsettia is a tropical plant, originally from Mexico, it thrives on large amounts of sunlight. The plant needs at least 6 hours of sunlight. Placing the plant in any window except a north one should do the trick, but be sure the window is not drafty.

If you plan on growing these plants all year, you may need to add some extra light from time to time with a plant light. However, I have seen them grown without one in Michigan, where we get many cloudy days in the winter.

Temperature Requirements

Your poinsettia will do best if it is kept at a room temperature between 68–70°F. Keep the plant away from cold drafts and direct heat. Keep it away from your cooking range, fireplaces, or ducts.

Poinsettia Water and Fertilizing Needs

To ensure your poinsettias are happy and healthy, you need to meet their water and fertilizing needs.

Water and Moisture Needs

When the soil is dry, be sure to water the plant with slightly warm water. Keep it in a container that will let the water drain after watering. If the plant is purchased with a decorative covering around the pot, be sure to remove it when watering so that it can drain. Over-watering is a sure way to make your plant sick, so don’t overwater.

Poinsettias also like a high level of humidity, so place in a humid place if possible.

Fertilizing Needs

Don’t fertilize your plant while it is blooming. Wait until it has finished blooming and then fertilize with a well-balanced all-purpose fertilizer. Growers use a diluted plant fertilizer which they use on the plant when watering once a week.

How to Get Your Poinsettia to Rebloom

Poinsettias will thrive for years and rebloom each year if they receive the proper care.

  1. Around late March or early April, cut your plant back to 8”. Continue caring for the plant, watering and letting it have proper light, and keep in the proper temperature. At the time of pruning, fertilize again.
  2. You should see new growth around the end of May. Continue watering. When the outdoor temperatures never go below 55 degrees, you can place your plant outdoors. Be sure the plant is placed in indirect sunlight because direct sun may burn the leaves. Don't forget to keep the plant fertilized.
  3. The poinsettia may become bushy with the extra sunlight. You should prune the plant no later than the second week in September. Prune off any spindly growth and leave 4–6 leaves on each branch.
  4. Around the beginning of June, you may need to transplant your plant into a bigger pot. The pot that you choose should not be any larger than 4” bigger than the original pot. The best soil to use is peat moss or other soil that is high in organic materials. If you live in an area where the temperature stays mild year-round, you can plant the poinsettia in your garden. Temperatures should stay above 55 degrees, however.
  5. If you would like Christmas bloom, you should keep your plant in an area where there is no light whatsoever for at least 14 hours, starting in late September thru October first at the latest. If no room in your house will provide these conditions, you can cover the plant with something during this time. You will need to continue this treatment for about 10 weeks.
  6. During October through December, your plant will need at least 6–8 hours of filtered sunlight during the daytime hours. Also be sure that the plant is kept at the correct temperature range between 60–70°F.

If you follow all of these instructions, you should have a blooming plant before Christmas. Now, sit back and enjoy.

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Read More From Dengarden

Are Poinsettia Leaves Poisonous?

I hesitated about purchasing a poinsettia this year because we have dogs in the house. An old wives' tale is that the leaves are poisonous. However, a child would have to eat so many leaves. A death from eating poinsettias has never been documented.

It is possible to get a stomach ache from eating the leaves, but because they have a terrible taste, no one would ever eat more than one, and they would spit it out to get the taste out of their mouth.

If you are allergic to latex, you may want to keep your hands off of the leaves of these plants. Some people that are allergic to latex are also allergic to the leaves of these plants.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Barbara Badder


Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 18, 2013:

Joanne, Thanks for reading. I enjoy them at Christmas too.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 18, 2013:

pinot2011, Thanks.

Joanne M Olivieri on June 18, 2013:

Poinsettias are just so pretty and my favorite holiday flower. Some very useful information on here and many things I did not know.

Subhas from New Delhi, India on June 18, 2013:

Hi Barbara! This hub contains a whole lot of information which is certainly going to help a lot ponsettia plant lovers.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 18, 2013:

purl3agony, Thanks for reading the hub and thanks for pinning it.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 18, 2013:

Mary615, Of course you can link it. Thanks for sharing too.

Donna Herron from USA on June 18, 2013:

Wonderful information. Thanks for sharing. Pinning your hub now :)

Mary Hyatt from Florida on June 18, 2013:

I just came back for a reread. I'm getting ready to repot the two that I have, and hope they will bloom again this Christmas. I have one that is now 3 years old and it reblooms each Christmas, but it is now root bound and must be repotted.

May I link this Hub into the one I wrote about my Poinsettia?

I am resharing this Hub.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 18, 2013:

Thelma, Thanks for reading this hub too. They are beautiful flowers.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 18, 2013:

I love Poinsettia plant especially during Christmas time. They are beautiful. Thanks for sharing this one of my favorite flowers. Have a nice day!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 19, 2012:

Susan, Thanks for reading and good luck with your next poinsettia.

susanm23b on March 19, 2012:

This is a very informative article! We usually buy at least one poinsettia at Christmas. I think they are beautiful--except when they put glitter on them :( ! They are so lovely just as they are... anyway, I have always wanted to try to get one to bloom again but have never had the patience. Your hub has inspired me to try. Bookmarking for next Christmas :) Voted up!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on February 06, 2012:

A poinsettia tree is just a plant that has had the bottom branches removed until it looks like a tree. If new branches form, keep them removed, but wear gloves when you do this. Otherwise take care of it the same as you would the plants.

Marylou on February 06, 2012:

I was wodering if the care would be the same for a poinsettia that is tree like as the regular ones?

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on December 07, 2011:

mary615, Thanks for commenting on the hub. I didn't include houseplants on the hub about dogs. Maybe I should. I'll have to see your hub about poinsettias.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 07, 2011:

Hi, I just read your Hub of the Day, and made a comment about the Poinsettia maybe being toxic to dogs. I guess you've answered that concern here. Thanks. I wrote a Hub about a huge poinsettia that I got as a gift. It's the biggest one I've ever seen. Good Hub on one of my favorite plants.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on November 09, 2011:

Kitty Grey, I grew a poinsettia that I was given this year. You wouldn't believe how much they grow in a year. I am still awaiting the blossoms yet. Thanks for reading the hub.

Kitty Grey from Los Angeles, CA on November 08, 2011:

This is a refreshingly thorough resource for poinsettia care. If I ever endeavour to raise one of those lovely plants, this is where I'll be headed!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on December 12, 2010:

Gifted Grandma, Be sure to notice that only some people allergic to latex shouldn't touch the leaves of the poinsettia. You may be fine and then again you may be allergic to it. I wouldn't experiment myself though.

I've read that some cactus can cause the same problem. You'll need to do some research into it if you have any.

GiftedGrandma from USA on December 12, 2010:

I am allergic to latex! My neighbor brings me one each year ;O)She would be horrified to know that as she is elderly. Will keep it to myself. I will have to remember that. I'm always wondering what causes different body reactions to me now..hummmm

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on December 10, 2010:

LillyGrillzit and mega1, I'm happy I helped.

mega1 on December 10, 2010:

Thanks! This was just the info I needed today to keep our big poinsettia looking so beautiful.

Lori J Latimer from Central Oregon on December 10, 2010:

Thank you for sharing these great tips for caring for poinsettias. Thank you!

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