Euphorbia pulcherrima

  • This fake Poinsettia has a 25 inch spread
  • Bright bendable leaves
  • Use for door or centerpiece
  • Folds flat for storage

Poinsettias [poyn-SET-ahz] are tropical shrubs that are used as landscape plantings in southern Florida and other warm regions.  Over the years the greenhouse industry has cultivated them as container plants and they have been enthusiastically embraced as Christmas holiday houseplants throughout the United States.  Poinsettias <i>(Euphorbia pulcherrima)</i> are native to a region in Mexico where their bright red blooms painted mountain slopes in December.  They charmed the early missionaries who incorporated them into Advent season observances.  Subsequently, Joel Poinsett, southern plantation owner and botanist who was the first US ambassador to Mexico, arranged to have some plants sent home to South Carolina.  Over the years this regal, yet versatile plant has enjoyed enormous popularity.


Contrary to popular myth, THESE PLANTS ARE NOT POISONOUS to people or pets.  Properly cared for they will bloom for several weeks to several months. 


Height and Spread

Planted outside in the summer, poinsettias reach 4 or 5 feet tall.  In southern Florida where they grow year round as landscape shrubs they reach 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  Typically poinsettia plants potted sold as gift houseplants are from 1 to 3 feet tall.  Potted plants are single stemmed or branching types.  Single stemmed “uprights” produce one giant bloom on the end of a single stem.  They are sold as one stem to a pot or many single stemmed plants in one large pot.  Three plants in a 6-inch pot are most common.  These are regarded to be the elite type of poinsettia.  The more common branched types produce many stems and are bushier.  They may bear 5 or smaller flowers on one stem in a 6-inch pot.  There are also miniature, and even dwarf poinsettia plants ranging from 6 to 12 inches in height. 


Flowers - The real flowers of the poinsettias are the clusters of tiny buttons in the middle of the colored leaves, or “bracts”.  These inconspicuous flowers turn yellow and open wider as they mature.  In common usage both the bracts and the center flowers are referred to as the poinsettia blossom.  They last for two to eight weeks indoors if the plant is properly cared for.  In addition to the standard familiar deep read, there are now pink, white, cream, yellow, speckled, and marbled flowers.  A new variety has ruffled bracts. 


Foliage - Poinsettia leaves are evergreen.  From 4 to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, they grow on stiff upright canelike stems.  They are lance shaped with slightly irregular edges coming to a point at the tip.  Their veins are clearly traced on their rich, green surfaces. 


Selecting Poinsettia Plants

When choosing potted poinsettias at the nursery or garden center look for plants that have dense, abundant dark green foliage.  Leaves should be growing on the stems all the way down to the soil surface.  Plants should be full and bushy, not leggy.  Looking at them sideways, you should not be able to see through the stems and leaves.  Avoid plants with leaves the are limp, yellowed or drooping, or that show a greenish-white tint.  Look for unopened flowers, meaning the buttons in the center of the colored bracts should be green.  After purchase, do not let plants get too chilled on the way home.  Have them laced in a bag of some sort to protect them. Even brief exposure to temperatures lower than 50 degrees may cause leaf drop. 


Popular Varieties

<u>Standard Red Poinsettias</u>;

‘Lilo’ is bright ruby red, lasts longest of all

‘Celebrate’ features upturned bracts, superior branching. 


<u>Novelty Colors of Poinsettias</u>

‘Jingle Bells’ shows pink flecks on dark red bracts

‘Marbela’ is cream marbled with pink

‘Pink Peppermint’ has softly speckled pink bracts

‘Lemon Drop’ is the first yellow poinsettia, somewhat short, ideal for hanging baskets

‘Pixies’ is miniaturized and multiflowered, good for hanging baskets. 



Using Poinsettias

Locating in the Home

Place poinsettias in a cool place if you can find such a place in today’s overheated home interiors. They do best when daytime temperatures are between 65 and 72 and (drop)to around 60 at night; not commonly found in most homes.  One trick is to have them on display during the day, but at night move them to a closed off guestroom where the temperature can be kept lower. 


The reason for this concern is that the cooler their living conditions, the longer their color lasts.  Find a spot in the room that receives bright light for several hours a day.  They can even handle the weakened winter sunlight for a short period of time (maybe 3 or 4 hours).  If it is possible to read fine print on a can or bottle label, then the light is probably bright enough.  Do not place poinsettias where they are exposed to drafts from opening doors or heating vents.  After from 4 to 6 weeks a poinsettia is past its prime and begins to (drop)leaves.  The leaf (drop)is normal and is no reflection on the homeowner’s character.  At this point the plant can be discarded or you can decide to maintain the plant over the year (see below).


Design Considerations

Use individual poinsettias as specimen plants to serve as focal points of the holiday décor on mantles and hearths (when the fireplace is unlighted) and as a centerpiece on tables.  Mass pots of poinsettias for a stunning holiday effect alone or mixed with household foliage plants in a living arrangement that fills a corner or the end of a hall.  Use hanging baskets in archways and along wood beams.  There are also minature poinsettia plants ideal for dish garden centerpieces or even corsages. 


Caring for Poinsettia Indoors


Minimum Care

Bright light 6 hours daily

Keep soil moist

Feed when brought home

Prevent drafts and overheating


Watering Poinsettias

Upon receipt or purchase of a gift poinsettia, remove any decorative foil from the bottom of the pot to facilitate water drainage.  Immediately check the soil for moisture and water if it is dry.  Poinsettias are thirst plants.  Keep the soil in their container moist, but not soggy.  They will probably need some watering almost every day, especially where hot air heating is used.  It is best to water them so thoroughly that excess water seeps down through the drain hole.  However, do not let them sit in the water that accumulates in the saucer under the pot.  Picky, picky, but that is the rule.  After they are finished flowering, and you intend to keep the plants over the year, water only every 7 days over a rest period of 3 to 4 weeks. 


Fertilizing Poinsettias

Feed holiday gift plants as soon as they are received.  Likely they have not been fed since they were in the greenhouse weeks previously.  A little diluted liquid fertilizer a few days after you bring them home will help extend their bloom period.  Follow the directions on the fertilizer label.


Grooming Poinsettias

Poinsettia plants come direct from the greenhouse fresh and groomed.  If they have been on display in a store for awhile an occasional misting with water spray and wiping the leaves should be sufficient to restore them to top condition.  Do not use commercial products to shine the leaves.  Pick up any yellowed, fallen leaves and discard them promptly. 


Pruning Poinsettias

Pruning of holiday houseplants is not necessary.  If the plant is to be kept over the winter and summer, pruning is done when the holiday bloom period is over and the leaves are faded.  Allow the spent plant to rest over a few weeks, reducing watering to once a week.  Then cut back main stems by at least one half of their length, down to 6 to 8 inches at the most.  It does not matter whether any leaves remain on the plant or not.  Make the cut with a sharp knife or pruners just above a node, the place where a leaf stem grows from the main stem.  Return the plant to its bright spot in the house, water and feed until it is time to put outdoors.


Year Round Poinsettia Care

After Bloom Care For Poinsettias

In about 5 or 6 weeks the flowers and the foliage on a holiday poinsettia will begin to fade and (drop)off.  At this time they need a 4 to 5 week period of rest and recuperation.  During this time reduce watering and feeding frequency to weekly intervals.  By March or April it is time to cut back the main stems as described above to stimulate and shape the new growth that will begin with the coming of spring.  This is the time to repot plants that have outgrown their original container and will spend the year indoors (see below).  Set the plants in a bright, draft free, cool spot to rejuvenate.  When they begin to produce new foliage resume normal watering and feeding.  After all danger of frost is past, poinsettias can be planted outdoors.  During the summer the plants will grow into larger, well-branched small green shrubs.  They require bright light throughout the day and lots of moisture.  They can not handle midday sun in the summer. 


Repotting Poinsettias

Repot poinsettias destined to stay in pots indoors, on patios or sunk in beds in May.  Those that will be planted directly into the garden beds all summer will need potting when they are brought indoors in the fall.  Use a high quality soilless potting mix (not potting soil), Shake off the loose soil from the root ball so that root tips are exposed.  Select a container that is at least an inch wider than the root ball on all sides and as deep as possible to promote good drainage.  Cover the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot with a piece of broken pot or a single pebble.  Fill the pot one third full with soilless mix.  Set the rootball in the pot so that the crown of the plant, where the stems meet the root structure, is about 1 inch below the rim of the pot.  Fill the pot with soilless mix, pressing it gently around the rootball and water generously.


Container Gardening With Poinsettias

Poinsettias in pots can be set out on the deck or patio for the summer.  Be sure they are not in direct sunlight, but receive good indirect light and are watered frequently.  There are poinsettia topiary “trees” available in specialty nurseries which are essentially older plants whose woody stems have been trained into single straight trunks and pruned so that the blossoms are restricted to a bushy canopy at their top.  Care for them as you would a regular poinsettia, but do not cut them back near to the soil as recommended below for regular potted plants when the outdoor growing season begins.  Instead, prune away any side shoots that appear on the woody trunk and clip0 back the top growth by half to stimulate new foliage for the next season.  Put them outside in bright light over the summer.  Bring them back into the house and restrict their light to stimulate new blooms as you would with regular poinsettia.  (See below)


Summer Care For Poinsettias

Properly sited, poinsettias will flourish over the summer.  If they are planted in a garden bed, fertilize them with a granular slow release fertilizer in the spring.  Be sure they receive regular moisture.  To prevent them from becoming too tall and leggy, pinch back the main stems several inches in late July or August which will stimulate branching to make denser, bushier plants. 


Stimulating Second Season Poinsettia Bloom

In the fall when the temperature drops to 45 to 50 at night, dig up the plants/pots and bring them indoors.  They can sit in their usual spot until about October 1.  Since blossom buds are stimulated by long nights, it will be necessary to shift to a string light/dark schedule to stimulate flower bud formation by December.  To provide this essential photoperiod of 15 hours of complete dark every day from October 1st through early December either:


Put the poinsettia in a dark, cool closet at 5:00 each night and bring it out to the light at 8:00 each morning, or


Leave it where it is and cover it at sunset with a doubled paper grocery bag and remove it in the morning.


Shortly after Thanksgiving, discontinue the special nighttime dark periods and move the plant into a bright (west or north exposure) window and it will begin to develop color for the holiday.