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Poinsettia Care

Posted on 14th December 2015

Caring for Poinsettia

Poinsettia is the common name for  Euphorbia pulcherrima a member of a very diverse genus of plants that range from annuals to herbaceous perennials to cacti and succulents and shrubs and trees, many of which are poisonous and/or produce a milky white sticky sap that is also toxic and extremely irritant. All Euphorbia species should be handled with care.

The poinsettia that we buy in for its vibrant display at Christmas time is a sub-tropical shrubby plant that originates from southern Mexico, Central America, and Africa. This poses the first problem in its care – they require a warm, draft free position but also plenty of humidity, so a centrally heated house can be very drying but also the fluctuations in temperature caused by heating going off at night and the opening and closing of windows and doors letting in drafts and causing sudden drops in temperature can cause the leaves to drop. Simply getting them from your car into the house can also be a problem if the weather is very cold. By this token it is wise to purchase them from a reputable garden centre who will know what they need and will have looked after them rather than a supermarket where they are often displayed by the door and may have been in a cold storage area prior to sale.

When you get them home find the most suitable spot and stand them on a tray of damp pebbles or mist them daily to raise humidity around the leaves. Keep them well watered but not soggy.

After Christmas keep them warm and draft free and then pot on around April, it is a good idea to cut the stems back at this point to encourage young new growth. They are hungry plants and will need feeding, grow them in a warm, light place. Poinsettia react to day length, they require short days to promote flowering and from October should be kept in a dark place or covered with a plastic bag for 14 hours in every 24 hour period for up to 8 weeks to get them into flower again. If they are kept in a room where the lights go on as soon as it is dark outside it will prevent the flower buds from forming.

This may sound rather challenging but it is also fun and very satisfying to get your poinsettia into flower each year, so if you get one this Christmas, why not test your horticultural skills next year?