Monday, December 19, 2011

The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Photograph by Angel W.
Year after year, around the beginning of December Poinsettias start showing up and welcoming in the Christmas Season.  I don't think a year has gone by where my home didn't have one.
Photograph by Paul Gellatly

A very common gift at this time of year, yet many people know little about Poinsettias, or how to take care of them.   Poinsettias are fairly inexpensive, ranging from a couple of dollars up to $60 or $70 for a large pot or one made into a standard.

Photograph by Angel W.
When choosing a good poinsettia, you want to first look for a healthy strong looking plant.  Make sure to check for the yellow flowers inside the coloured bracts.  This will indicate that the plant isn't past its prime.  I would not recommend purchasing plants that are in a paper or plastic sleeve, over time if the poinsettias are kept in the stores in these, the leaves will often turn yellow and fall off.

Once you've picked out a good one, its important that the store you purchase it at, wrap the plant up so that it doesn't get more of a draft than needed when transporting it home.  Remember that Poinsettias are tropical plants,
and not being protected from the cold, even for
short amounts of time may result in it dropping
its leaves.

Photograph by Angel W.
Find a place in your home where the plant will receive bright but not direct light, and is out of the way of warm or cold drafts.  This will ensure you get the longest bloom time out of your plant.  Water the Poinsettia only when the soil is dry to the touch.  If the plant looks limp, you waited too long.

I have never really given much thought to the plants after the season.  However, if you are looking for a bit of a challenge and would like to attempt to get your Poinsettia to re-bloom next year, here are some tips:

January - April      Move the Poinsettia to a bright window, continue to water; and fertilize with houseplant fertilizer when you see new growth appear.    Trim the stems back to about 7-8"

End of May - June    I would recommend re-potting the plant, and begin to fertilize with 20-20-20.  Move the plant outdoors, continue to water when dry to the touch, and keep in a slightly shaded location.

August    Bring plant back inside to sunny window, and cut the stems back, so there are 3 or 4 leaves remaining on each stem.  Continue to fertilize and water as necessary

Mid September - December 1st  Begin the most important step to success in getting these to re-bloom which is the cycle of light / dark.    Keep plants in the light from 8 am to 5 pm, then put the plant in a dark location (no light at all) from 5 pm to 8 am    If you adhere to the light/dark cycle strictly once December 1st rolls around you should have nicely coloured bracts and the plant will be ready to flower again for Christmas next year.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly


  1. Great job Paul! And those pics are gorgeous!!

  2. It's no secret that I'm more than a little jealous that you stole all of the green-thumb talent leaving absolutely none for me. HOWEVER, I'm determined to learn! No longer will my reply to "What can't you do?" be "I kill houseplants". I have a really fun idea/project to talk to you about over Christmas. Can't wait to see you - Miss and love you!!! ~Stacey