Poinsettia – How Not to Kill Them

No longer just the old familiar bright red, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are available in a multitude of colors, from pink, white, deep rosy red, orange-red, to variegated pink and white, red and white, and now a yellowish white. I love them all, and just added three more to my collection: two of the red-and-white, and one of the pink-and-white. These are very small and still in pots until after the holidays. I sunk the two red & white ones, pot and all, into the beds leading up to our front door. The pink and white one is gracing a table on our lanai.

pink-white-mlm-c red-white-mlm-c

After the danger of freezing temperatures has passed, probably early March, I will plant them in my garden. The pink-and-white one will add a nice splash of color to my night garden that I am still creating in our back yard. What’s a night garden? Just wait for my post on that topic coming soon.

I have lost count of the questions I’ve been asked about how not to kill these beauties, so rather than take a chance on omitting someone, I’ll not mention the names of those who asked. What I will do is to share what I have learned about caring for poinsettia.

Did You Know the colored leaves are not the blooms? They are just leaves called bracts that turn gorgeous colors when the time is right. It is the shorter days of winter that cause the leaves to change. The internal changes that trigger the color change also tell the plant to form the flower buds. The flowers are quite small, and are easily missed. Here is one of my white poinsettia with buds almost ready to open:

white-bracts-w-flower-buds-mlm-c

Here’s a closer look at those tiny buds. They should be opening any day now.

flower-buds-mlm-c

This white poinsettia is in my back yard, and is now about 3-4 feet tall — they’re actually flowering shrubs. I took the photo below last December (2015). It doesn’t look so good this year. Between the invasive fern I planted near it and my not being able to work in the yard for several months, my larger poinsettias really suffered this year. They are tall and leggy from being almost smothered by Boston fern that grew to about 2 feet tall all around them. Now that I have removed most of the fern — I’m still working on it — they are putting out new growth along those leggy stems.  Here’s a photo of it before “The Invasion of the Fern”.

large-white-poinsettia-mlm-c

How to Care For Your Poinsettia:

Poinsettia, how we love them!  They are enjoyed by so many this time of year, yet so many are killed shortly after Christmas. Okay, maybe not intentionally killed– maybe loved to death by too much water or not enough light indoors. Many suffer from dry indoor heat, and are often neglected after the holidays. Could it be that we simply don’t know how to care for them? Nah, it couldn’t be that… well, maybe.

Hardiness:  Poinsettia are cold hardy in USDA Zones 9B – 11. I live in Zone 9, but will take no chances if we get below freezing temperatures, which we may get in February. They are happiest at temps above 50 F.

Light:  Poinsettia need full sun: at least 6 hours per day.

Water:  The soil should feel moist and cool when touched, but not soaking wet; too much water is as bad, if not worse than too little. If your potted poinsettia feels very lightweight when you pick it up, it probably needs water. Just feel of the soil to see if it is dry. If it needs water, take it to a sink and water it well, allowing the excess to drain away.

Be sure to remove the decorative foil that comes with most poinsettia purchased during the holidays when watering these delicate plants. This is true for any potted plant — those foil wrappers are death traps, as they allow the plant to sit in water that has escaped the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. You definitely want this water to be able to drain away completely. If you are diligent about checking for water collected in the foil wrapper, you could leave the foil on, but only if you know you will remember to check on it. Will you remember if the phone rings or the baby cries or the doorbell rings? Not me. So I remove the foil during the watering process, then replace it after I’m done. On the other hand, if I have a pretty cache pot to put the ugly plastic pot into, I trash the foil and use the pretty pot.

Enjoy your holiday flowers, and your holidays.

Merry Christmas!  and  Happy Hanukkah!

 

 

4 responses to “Poinsettia – How Not to Kill Them

  1. Just the information I was looking for. I’m going to link to this from my post on poinsettias.

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  2. Great tips, and now I know my big mistake. It’s the foil. I always keep it as it looks so festive.

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    • Thank you, Rhonda. Your comment helped me to realize I left out a point I should have made on this post. When I’m using a holiday plant as a decoration in my home, I remove the foil to water the plant, but when it has finished draining, I put back into the pretty foil wrapper. I do this only during the holidays or for a plant that’s in an ugly plastic pot. If I have a pretty cache pot to use, then I discard the foil. I’ll need to add this info to the post. Thanks again, and Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

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