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How to Care for Poinsettias

Learn how to care for your poinsettias and keep them looking beautiful all holiday season, and then learn how to make the re-bloom and turn red again next year! From watering to potting soil, my poinsettia care guide has you covered.

Poinsettia care over the holidays and all year!

Today I am sharing a classic plant care post! I’ve been trying to branch out a bit and write on some more non-traditional types of houseplants, including some holiday-themed plants.

I have posts on how to grow paper whites indoors, as well as how to grow amaryllis indoors from bulbs. Both are awesome flowering plants that you commonly see around the holidays.

And another, perhaps the most popular type of holiday plant, is the poinsettia! You’ve probably been around poinsettias your whole life but, like me, don’t know that much about them. I learned so much putting this post together! So let’s get started.

poinsettia, grass fronds, and evergreen cuttings on a table
red and green leaves on a poinsettia

Poinsettia care guide table of contents

This is a long post, so I wanted to drop a table of contents here so you can quickly navigate to the section you’re here for. Of course you’re welcome to read the whole thing, too 🙂

What are poinsettias?

Poinsettias are a type of flowering plant native to Mexico and Central America. They are part of the Euphorbiaceae family and are known for their colorful red and green leaves, which are often used to decorate during the holidays. 

The red parts of the plant are actually modified leaves called bracts, and the small, yellow flowers are located in the center of the bracts. But people refer to the red parts as “flowers” often. Poinsettias are relatively easy to care for and can add a touch of holiday cheer to any space.

bright red poinsettia foliage

How did poinsettias become associated with the holidays?

Poinsettias have a long history as a holiday plant, at least here in America. The plant was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. 

Poinsett was an amateur botanist and brought the plant back to the United States as a gift for his friends and colleagues. The plant became popular here and was eventually embraced as a symbol of the holiday season.

In the early 1900s, a California grower began growing poinsettias and developed techniques for forcing the plants to bloom around Christmas. They began selling the plants to florists, who used them as decorations during the holiday season. The vivid red also makes this a perfect holiday plant.

red and green leaves on a poinsettia
white, orange, and yellow poinsettias

Poinsettia care & lighting needs?

Where you place a poinsettia can have a big impact on the plant’s health and longevity. Here are some things to consider when selecting a location that ensure optimal poinsettia care.

Choose a spot with bright, indirect light to help your plant thrive. A south-facing window is usually the best spot because it provides plenty of light without being too hot or sunny. If you don’t have a south-facing window, you can also place the plant in an east- or west-facing window. 

Be sure to avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight, as this can cause the leaves to yellow and the blooms to fade from their lovely red. Poinsettias are also sensitive to sudden temperature changes, so it’s important to avoid placing them in drafty areas or near heating vents. 

If your poinsettia is not getting enough light or if your home is kind of dark, you may notice that the leaves become pale or the plant becomes leggy. In this case, you can supplement with artificial light using grow lights or fluorescent bulbs. 

Just be sure to keep the lights a few inches away from the plant to prevent overheating. I have a post all about the different types of grow lights and how I use them with houseplants if you’re interested in learning more!

variegated poinsettia leaves

How often do you water a poinsettia?

Like many other plants, watering a poinsettia is an important part of keeping the plant healthy and vibrant. However, it’s important to strike a balance between providing enough water and not overwatering the plant. Here are some general guidelines for watering a poinsettia.

First, I recommend checking the soil moisture. To check the moisture level, stick your finger about an inch into the soil. (You can also use a moisture meter, but I prefer my finger.) If the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to water. 

I like watering plants deeply in the sink or shower and letting all of the water drain out of the pot’s drainage holes. This helps prevent root rot, which can be a common problem with poinsettias.

It’s important to avoid letting the poinsettia sit in standing water, as this can cause the roots to rot. If you’re using a saucer or tray to catch excess water, be sure to empty it after watering.

poinsettia, grass fronds, and evergreen cuttings on a table
red, pink, and yellow poinsettias

Soil needs

Soil is also an important part of both the watering routine and the overall poinsettia care routine. I recommend using a well-draining potting mix because poinsettias are susceptible to root rot, which can be caused by overwatering or poor drainage. 

Look for a mix that is specifically formulated for houseplants or indoor plants, as these mixes are designed to provide the right balance of drainage and moisture retention. Don’t use soil straight from the garden. If you monitor things like acidity in your soil, poinsettias prefer a slightly acidic soil.

Want more holiday stuff? Check out my Holiday Cactus Care guide and my post about How to Take Care of a Potted Christmas Tree!

red poinsettia foliage

What temperature kills poinsettia?

As plants that hail from a warmer climate, it makes sense that poinsettias prefer temperatures in the 60s, 70s, and 80s Fahrenheit. It can survive a few cold snaps and even higher temperatures, but this is the ideal range.

I mentioned earlier that poinsettias are sensitive to sudden temperature changes, so it’s important to avoid placing the plant in drafty areas or near heating vents. This is especially important during the winter months, when outdoor temperatures can be extreme.

Poinsettias are not cold or frost hardy at all. If you live in a climate with freezing winters, it’s important to protect your poinsettia from freezing temperatures. As an indoor plant, this isn’t really an issue.

Just keep that in mind if you’re keeping your poinsettias all year round and taking them outdoors for the spring and summer. You’ll want to bring them in when temperatures begin dropping consistently into the low 50s Fahrenheit at night.

poinsettia, grass fronds, and evergreen cuttings on a table
gorgeous red poinsettia foliage

Should I spray water on my poinsettia?

As far as humidity goes, you don’t need to mist your plant. It generally will do fine with somewhat dry air, but it also won’t resist a bit of extra moisture in the air.

Can you keep a poinsettia alive year round?

Many people buy poinsettia plants around the holidays and then chuck them after Christmas is over. And that’s fine. But you can keep them alive year round!

During the winter months, when natural sunlight is limited, it may be necessary to provide the plant with additional light using grow lights or placing it near a sunny window. Providing the plant with proper care can help to encourage it to bloom again the following year.

How long do poinsettias usually last?

When you buy a poinsettia, it is almost certainly already blooming. And you can’t be sure how long it has already been in bloom. But it is probably already a few weeks into its blooming cycle.

It generally stays in bloom for upwards of two months with proper care. But after the plant is done blooming, what do you do with it? We buy the plants for their blooms, so what happens when they die off?

poinsettia, grass fronds, and evergreen cuttings on a table
gorgeous red poinsettia foliage

What do I do with my poinsettia after Christmas?

Which brings me to this question, which is a common one—what do I do with my poinsettia after Christmas? If you want to save it, you definitely can!

After the plant is done blooming, continue caring for it as I’ve outlined in this guide. Give it bright, indirect light for as much of the day as you can. Through the winter and early spring, continue watering your plant when the top several inches of soil dries out. 

In the spring, you can cut back the stems a few inches to encourage branching and fullness, making sure to keep the plant in bright, indirect light. You’ll likely begin to notice new growth on your plant, but no flowers yet.

Poinsettias are heavy feeders and benefit from regular fertilization, especially during the active growth period of the spring and summer. I recommend using a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer with an ideal mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK).

You can fertilize the plant every few weeks, but make sure it is properly diluted. If you don’t, you risk overfertilizing the plant. This can lead to excessive leaf growth and fewer blooms.

hand holding a bushy poinsettia
poinsettia stem
Trim back the stems a bit here

When should I start putting my poinsettia in the dark?

An essential part of getting your poinsettia to bloom again and turn red is by putting your poinsettia in the dark. Yes…I’ve spent half the article reminding you to keep this plant in bright, indirect light. And now I’m telling you to put it in the dark.

That’s because poinsettias require prolonged periods of darkness for 2-3 months in the fall to bloom again. However, they need this darkness at night. Keep the plant in bright, indirect light during the day.

How do you get a poinsettia to turn red again?

In the evening, put the plant in a room without a window or a dark basement for 12-14 hours. It’s a pain to move the plant back and forth, but it’s necessary to produce another round of gorgeous red leaves! You could also cover the plant with a box or something.

You can begin this light/dark cycling process in late September or early October. Once you reach early to mid December, your plant should begin turning red again. Just in time for the holidays.

green leaves on a poinsettia
poinsettia, grass fronds, and evergreen cuttings on a table

Why do the leaves on my poinsettia keep falling off?

As you’re caring for your poinsettia throughout the year, you may encounter a few issues. For example, the leaves on the plant might begin to yellow and fall off.

This can signal a few things. First, poinsettias will drop leaves if they experience sudden temperature changes like cold drafts or super warm blasts of air from a heat register.

If you underwater the plant, the soil will be dry and the leaves will begin to wilt, yellow, and fall off. Conversely, if the leaves are yellowing and falling off but the soil has been consistently wet…it’s probably overwatering. 

gorgeous red poinsettia foliage
variegated poinsettia leaves

Are poinsettias poisonous?

Like many other ornamental plants, poinsettias are not meant to be eaten. Parts of the plant can have a mild toxic effect if ingested by people or animals. The sap and leaves of the poinsettia contain chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponins, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive problems in pets.

In addition, the leaves and stems of the plant can irritate the mouth and throat, leading to excessive drooling and difficulty swallowing. If your pet eats a poinsettia plant, you should monitor them closely for any signs of illness and contact your vet if you have concerns.

While the plant is generally not considered to be highly toxic, it is always best to be cautious and seek medical attention if necessary. It is important to keep all plants out of reach of pets and nosy kids, especially if you are not sure of their potential toxicity.

milky poinsettia sap on a lead

And that’s a wrap on poinsettia care!

That’s a wrap on how to care for poinsettias—not only in the winter when they are gorgeous and red, but throughout the year! We’ve covered how to keep them happy and healthy, as well as how to get them to bloom and turn red again each year.

Pin my post about poinsettia care!

holiday plants on a table with text overlay that says my complete poinsettia care guide!
collage that says my ultimate poinsettia care guide including images of the plant
Brittany Goldwyn
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