You have done it again and fallen into the temptation of buying a beautiful poinsettia, even though you are afraid that it will not survive beyond Christmas.

 

Don’t worry, we are going to give you the key to look after it throughout the festive season and beyond. 

A flower pot with a red plant in it

The poinsettia, also known as the Christmas flower, Christmas star, lobster plant or painted leaf, is a true gem of a plant that is native to Mexico but known all over the world.

With more than 100 varieties cultivated, this plant has become an iconic symbol marking the beginning of the Christmas season.

 

 

However, it is also known for being discarded right after the festivities because most people don’t know how to properly maintain it. Believing it to be a difficult plant to care for, many choose to get an artificial version… but nothing could be further from the truth! 

 

Poinsettias are quite resilient plants, and, with the right care, they can be very long-lived. In fact, in their natural state, they live for decades and grow so large that they resemble small trees.

 

An outdoor poinsettia that has grown to the size of a small tree.
An outdoor poinsettia that has grown to the size of a small tree.

Common Mistakes and Basic Care

What scares many people is that after the Christmas season, it starts to lose its leaves. On one hand, this is natural, as it is a deciduous plant, but it can also mean that the plant has not been properly cared for. In either case, people often get rid of their poinsettias because they don’t know how to proceed after they have lost all their leaves. This is a pity, as they will miss the opportunity to enjoy their rebirth and subsequent flowering the following Christmas.

 

Do you really want to be one of those people who buy “throw-away” poinsettias? Well, if your goal is to keep your Poinsettias alive Christmas after Christmas, you’ve landed in the right place. Here are some common mistakes and practical tips on how to avoid them and care for them now and for the rest of the year.

As we have discussed, it is absolutely necessary to maintain some basic care to keep the plant healthy. Otherwise, it will spend its strength and energy on surviving and not on producing flowers, so take note of the following common mistakes and care tips to avoid them.

You buy your Poinsettia and visualize the place where it will look ideal along with the rest of your Christmas decorations. For this aesthetic reason, sometimes we make the mistake of placing it in an area where there is not enough light. Or where the hours of light it receives are not enough. Remember: before being a decorative piece, it is a living plant, and we must treat it as such.

 

Therefore, the first tip is to place your Poinsettia in a bright spot, the closer to a window the better. During winter and spring months it can withstand direct sunlight, but in summer and autumn, it is best to avoid direct sunlight as it could burn its leaves.

 

Christmas flower in perfect condition with a Christmas tree with lights in the background.
Christmas flower in perfect condition with a Christmas tree with lights in the background.

How often you water your poinsettia is very important to keep it in good condition. Overwatering is one of its worst enemies and the reason most poinsettias don’t make it through the holiday season. Poinsettias are euphorbias, i.e. they belong to the succulent family. This means that they are very sensitive to root rot and tolerate certain periods of drought better than too much water.

 

On the other hand, keep an eye on the humidity level of the room where you have your Poinsettia. These plants need a moderate level of humidity to prevent leaf drop, and humidity below 40% will do them a disservice when it comes to staying healthy and beautiful.

Poinsettias are resilient, yes, but they will thrive within a specific temperature range. What is that sweet spot? Ideally, a temperature of around 20-22°C during the day and a minimum of 15°C at night. Although they can withstand up to 5 degrees Celsius, temperatures below 10 degrees and sudden fluctuations in temperature should be avoided for optimal health.

 

We recommend keeping poinsettias away from draughts, such as those generated by air conditioners and heaters, to prevent moisture loss and wilting.

 

In colder areas, it is best to keep them indoors, away from the coldest windows. In milder areas, where the temperature does not drop much more than 10 degrees at night, they can be placed outside, such as on a balcony, in a garden or on a windowsill.

The fourth mistake is related to how easy it is for poinsettias to suffer from root rot.

 

A pot without holes, using a poor-quality substrate or keeping a saucer under the pot, what do all these situations have in common? They do not allow proper water drainage, which leads to waterlogged roots. To mitigate this, keep your plants in pots with drainage holes, which, while usually not as visually appealing, are more functional. You can always enhance the visual appeal with a decorative pot cover but ensure water doesn’t accumulate at the base. If you use a saucer, remember to empty it post-watering.

 

Regarding substrate, choose one rich in organic matter and with good porosity, for this purpose Kilomix can be your best ally. You can also add a small amount of clay pebbles, such as Hydro Rokz, to the mix. This adjustment will further improve drainage and aeration, although you may then have to water the plant more often.

 

As you know, all plants need certain essential nutrients to carry out their vital functions, and for this they need to be fertilised. Although poinsettias are not particularly demanding plants, they do need a regular supply of nutrients. Therefore, adding a nitrogen-rich fertiliser to the water once every two-three weeks, will allow your plant to develop healthily and happily.

 

 

You can use liquid fertilisers such as 1-Component or Growth-C, which contain all the elements needed to nourish your plant. Or, if you prefer to use a solid organic fertiliser, Upgrade will work wonders. It’s very easy to use, just sprinkle 2-4 grams per litre of substrate, guided by the litres in the pot… and that’s it! Your plants will have enough nutrients for the next 3 months or so.

Upgrade is the slow-release universal solid fertiliser that will feed your Poinsettias for up to 3 months. Organic and rich in nitrogen, it is the perfect ally.
Upgrade is the slow-release universal solid fertiliser that will feed your Poinsettias for up to 3 months. Organic and rich in nitrogen, it is the perfect ally.

How to get it to flower again

Now that we have internalised these basics, we can move on to thinking about flowering. How can you get it to flower Christmas after Christmas? As you know, the Poinsettia flowers in winter, specifically from November to February in the northern hemisphere, when the days get shorter.  

 

Therefore, to bring your poinsettia back into bloom, you should imitate these conditions and, during October until Christmas, avoid letting it receive 12 to 14 hours of light per day. 

 

Naturally, it gets dark much earlier from October onwards, which should be enough. But if this does not provide 12 to 14 hours of darkness, try to cover the plant in the evening with dark plastic, thick cardboard or a protective hood covered with aluminium foil.

Sensing this shortening of the daylight hours gives the plant the signal to start flowering. This is why the Poinsettia is considered a short-day plant.

After flowering...

Coinciding with the end of the holiday season, the poinsettia will gradually lose leaves. Don’t worry. If you have heeded the care tips above, your plant will be fine. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, poinsettias are deciduous plants, so it is natural for them to drop all their leaves. When this happens, what to do next?

Poinsettia loses its leaves naturally after the Christmas holidays.
Poinsettia loses its leaves naturally after the Christmas holidays.

Pruning and Propagation

After the leaves drop and lose their bracts (the red leaves), prune the plant leaving 5-10 cm stems.

These stems can be used as tip cuttings to multiply the plant. In frost-free areas, this is the time to plant them in the garden if you want to add them to your outdoor collection, where they can grow freely.

Carefully pruning the Poinsettia when it has hardly any photosynthetic leaves will allow it to regrow more vigorously
Carefully pruning the Poinsettia when it has hardly any photosynthetic leaves will allow it to regrow more vigorously

Thank you for reading all the way through! Now, if you follow these care tips, and with your attentive maintenance, we are sure that the Poinsettia you bought will remain part of your plant collection beyond the holidays, and you will enjoy its growth and flowering year after year. Apply what you have learned in this post and enjoy the beauty of these exotic plants all year round!

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