For decades, the bright red leaves of poinsettias have been synonymous with the festive season.
Poinsettias are the birth flower for December and one of the most popular festive flowers – probably due to their star-like leaves, as well as their festive bright red colour.
They're so popular, that poinsettias are said to be the second best-selling houseplant in the UK – with an estimated 8 million of them being sold just over Christmas (according to Stars for Europe).
But how can we look after everyone’s favourite Christmas plant, help them thrive and keep them from wilting early? Follow this guide on how to care for a poinsettia to avoid it wilting early this Christmas.
Poinsettias come in a range of beautiful colours: the traditional red of course, but these days you can find multi-coloured ones too, including pink and white poinsettias.
The poinsettia experts at Stars for Europe have shared their tips on how to keep these plants looking their best for weeks.
1. Poinsettias need plenty of natural light
Since the poinsettia originates from tropical Mexico, it needs lots of sunlight. In the winter months it is happiest by a south-facing window. Worried that poinsettias won't tolerate direct sunlight? Don't be; the UK’s winter climate means that bright sunlight is only minimal and the danger of too much sunlight hitting the leaves is virtually non-existent.
2. Keep Poinsettias away from drafts
Poinsettias feel most at home in a warm, bright place away from drafts – so keep away from open doors, windows and fireplaces.
Always place them in a sheltered spot; if it’s too draughty, this warmth-loving Poinsettia plant may start to lose its leaves.
3. How much to water Poinsettias
You should water poinsettias when the soil is noticeably dry. This could be every day in the case of a plant near a radiator in a dry room, or only every second or third day in other areas of the home. You can check by carefully lifting up the plant: if it feels light and the soil looks light in colour, give it some water.
Poinsettias require different amounts of water depending on location, room temperature, plant and pot size. For a standard pot with a diameter of 13cm, give it no more than a small glass of water, ie around 0.2 litres.
It’s worth noting that smaller pots dry out faster than larger ones, so you will need water them more often. Mini poinsettias, in particular, should be checked every day. Mini poinsettias should not be given more than one shot glass of water.
If in doubt, it’s better to keep poinsettias a little drier (rather than too moist) and to water them little and often, rather than rarely but in great quantity.
If your plant pot sits on a plate or in a bowl, removed any excess water that is still in the planter ten minutes after watering.
4. Use a liquid fertiliser
Poinsettias are also particularly long-lasting when they are fertilised once a week from about four weeks after purchase, using a liquid fertiliser for flowering houseplants in the dosage indicated on the packaging.
5. Give it complete darkness at night
Cover your Poinsettia plant every night or move it to a dark cupboard overnight. For it to bloom again, a poinsettia needs 14 hours of complete darkness every night.
What is the ultimate room temperature for Poinsettias?
A temperature of between 15 and 22 degrees is ideal, making these plants well suited to bedrooms and living rooms.
Your poinsettia will be happy at a temperature of around 20° C, and are fine to be placed near a radiator.
How to choose the best Poinsettia
A good quality Poinsettia can be recognised by undamaged leaves and small budding yellow flowers at its centre. The soil should be neither dried out nor soaking wet. A good retailer will also place their poinsettias away from the draughty entrance area of the store.
Avoid buying Poinsettias from outside shops or stalls as lower temperatures on display will reduce the shelf life of the plant.
When buying a Poinsettia, you should inspect the plant carefully before buying; poinsettia are tender plants and will not last if they stand in the cold for any length of time.
How to transport your Poinsettia
It’s important to wrap your Poinsettia in paper for the journey home to protect it from drafts and temperatures below 12 degrees Celsius. This protects it from damage that is initially invisible but can lead to premature loss of leaves after a few days.
How to cut Poinsettias for vases
To use poinsettias as fresh flowers in a vase, cut the bracts, dip the cut end in warm (60 degrees) water for five seconds, then immediately in cold water, and you’re ready to arrange.
How can you revive a dying Poinsettia?
To revive a dying Poinsettia, first remove the dead leaves from the pot and from the branches, and continue to remove any leaves that fall off. If the stems of the plant have started to rot, you'll need to cut them back far enough so that you can remove the dead / rotting parts.
Next, place the Poinsettia near a bright, south-facing window. Give it a little water, but they prefer slightly dry soil rather than over-watered.
As a final tip, give a Poinsettia 1 or 2 tablespoons of fertiliser to give it a healthy boost.
If you choose a good quality plant and follow all of this advice, your poinsettias will flower for a long time.