Skip to site navigation

Poinsettia

Home  |  
Gardening > Advice  > Poinsettia
last updated Dec 11, 2013
Join the RHS

RHS membership

Get gardening advice all year round.

Join the RHS


Buy as a gift

Advertisement
Poinsettia

Poinsettias are cheery plants that are widely grown indoors over Christmas for their brightly coloured bracts. They are often disposed of once they start to fade, but with a little care, you can keep them all year and the bracts will colour up again the following year.

Cultivation notes Back to top

Poinsettias need bright, but filtered light, away from strong sun and draughts. They need a minimum temperature of 13-15°C (55-59°F).

Be careful when transporting poinsettias from the shop to your home in the winter, as the cold outdoor temperatures can damage the foliage. Always ask if the shop can wrap the plant in paper right around the top of the foliage, or put it in a plastic bag so that it is completely protected.

Sometimes a poinsettia will start wilting once you get it home, and continue to deteriorate, no matter what you do. This could be due to the plant having been stored in cold conditions in the shop before you bought it. Unfortunately there is little you can do about this. Buying plants from reputable suppliers is recommended.

Water poinsettias sparingly as overwatering can damage plants. As a rule of thumb, only water when the surface of the compost has begun to dry out. The flowering life of plants is extended by humidity, so mist plants regularly.

Feed monthly with a low nitrogen, high potassium fertiliser.

If potting up poinsettias, use three parts John Innes No 3 to one part grit.

Getting plants to colour up again next year

Poinsettias are often disappointing in their second year, but this is the best way to try and get a good display from them in their second year.

  1. Prune back the plants hard in April, to about 10cm (4in).
  2. Repot them, growing them in a light, cool place over summer. A temperature of 15-18°C (60-65°F) is ideal.
  3. Flowering and bract colouring is initiated by short winter day-length, occurring naturally in December and January. So from November onwards, plants should be put in a dark room after twelve hours of daylight and protected from artificial light sources.
  4. Plants need a constant temperature of around 18°C (55°F) to colour up well, so make sure they do not get too cold.

Propagation Back to top

Poinsettias can be propagated by softwood cuttings in May, making sure you wear gloves, as the milky sap can be an irritant.

Cultivar Selection Back to top

New colour forms of poinsettia are often being introduced. Here are but a few;

  • Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Silver Star’ - dusky pink bracts and variegated leaves
  • E. pulcherrima ‘Lemon Snow’ - pale yellow bracts
  • E. pulcherrima ‘Cortez Burgundy’ - deep plum bracts
Poinsettia with pink bracts

Poinsettia with pink bracts

Problems Back to top

Poinsettias can suffer from grey mould when overwatered, and may also be attacked by common pests of indoor plants such as scale insect and mealybug.

Quick facts

Common name Poinsettia
Botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima
Group Houseplant
Flowering time December to January
Planting time Spring (for repotting)
Height & spread Up to 60cm (2ft) height; 30cm (1ft) spread
Aspect Bright but filtered light, indoors
Hardiness Tender
Difficulty Easy
Advertisement