How to care for poinsettias: Your guide to the Christmas flower

How to care for poinsettias: Your guide to the Christmas flower

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Poinsettias have been a Christmas staple in the U.S. for nearly 200 years, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows how to take care of these tropical flowers.

It’s estimated that roughly 35 million potted poinsettias are sold in the U.S. each year. Some folks are content with keeping the iconic red flower for only a few weeks each holiday season while others have mastered keeping the poinsettias alive long enough for it to rebloom the next year.

If you’re aspiring to be a poinsettia “plant parent,” there are a few things you’re going to need to know before you visit your local flower shop or nursery. 

“Unlike cut flowers, houseplants don’t have an expiration date, which is one of the many reasons we love them,” said Erin Marino, editorial lead at The Sill – a direct-to-consumer plant company. “Popular holiday houseplants like vibrant poinsettias and miniature evergreens can survive long after the holiday season is over.”

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), also known as the Christmas Star flower, is a vibrant red flower that’s native to Mexico and Central America. The plant was popularized in the U.S. by Joel R. Poinsett, an American physician and diplomat who brought the plant stateside in the late 1820s while he was a minister to Mexico.

Marino told Fox News that poinsettia owners mainly need to monitor these holiday flowers for sunlight, temperature, watering and trimming.

“Poinsettias prefer medium to bright indirect light. Keep them on a windowsill to give them the most amount of daylight possible, especially during the winter when the sun sets earlier,” Marino said. “If your home lacks natural light, you can try placing your plant directly under a fluorescent lamp or plant grow light during the day.”

Since poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America, the plant thrives in warm climates.

“Be mindful of the temperature indoors and don’t place your poinsettia near any hot or cold drafts that could come from heaters or cracked windows. They prefer temperatures in the 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit range,” Marino explained. “Unless you live in southern Florida, don’t plan to place your plants outside until late spring.”

Like other tropical plants, healthy poinsettias grow in soil that’s moist to the touch. Soil that’s too dry or wet could result in a poinsettia’s shortened lifespan.

Poinsettias are tropical flowers that thrive in warm and wet climates. Plant owners should make sure this holiday flower remains in moist, but not overly wet soil.

Marino recommends watering a poinsettia plant about once a week, but she also warns against overwatering because it could lead to root rot. If too much water has been added by accident, Marino advises emptying the planter’s saucer to release the excess H20. Poinsettia owners who want to go the extra mile want to consider using a humidifier at home, however, this step is not mandatory.

If your poinsettia survives long enough to make it to spring, it will be ready for “significant pruning,” according to Marino.

“Remove all dead leaves and flowers from your holiday plants, especially crispy poinsettias leaves,” she said. “If they’re in holiday packaging, for example, a paper or foil sleeve, it’s time to remove it. Decorative sleeves usually push leaves up and block light, which ultimately shortens a plant’s lifespan.”

Additional poinsettia considerations

Figuring out how much water a Poinsettia needs is probably one of the most challenging parts of caring for the plant, especially if it’s your first time.

Jim Faust, Ph.D., an associate professor of floriculture physiology at Clemson University, told Fox he recommends watering poinsettias with one to two cups of water each week with “smaller amounts for small pots, larger amounts for large pots.”

The temperature of the water also matters, according to NatureID – an AI- and botanist-driven plant identification app.

Poinsettia flowers reach their peak coloring in the autumn and winter season. There are more than 100 poinsettia varieties in existence.

A media representative for the app told Fox that cold water is harmful to poinsettias. The optimum water temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The plant resource also recommends repotting large poinsettias if they have been purchased from a nursery or have simply outgrown their original pot.

Last words of advice

Poinsettia owners who are worried that their green thumb isn’t good enough to keep these plants alive might feel comfort in knowing that this tropical flower has been bred to have higher survival odds.

Like other flowers, poinsettias need to be pruned and repotted after they grow a significant amount.

“Modern poinsettias are not your grandmother’s plants. Breeding has dramatically improved their consumer performance,” said Faust. “Back in the day, growers would place ferns or pine boughs in the pot along with the poinsettia to provide greenery, because the poinsettia leaves would fall off so quickly. Today’s poinsettias will last well into January if watered properly and provided enough sunlight.”

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