It’s early December and less than three weeks until we get to Christmas, and already lots of people are thinking about how they can decorate their homes for the festive period. One way is to bring in houseplants, and probably the most popular houseplant that we bring in at this time of the year is the lovely poinsettia.
In a recent Pots & Trowels video, Martin Fish shared his expert tips and advice on poinsettia care this season. You can watch the video below, or keep reading for all the tips and tricks you need to look after them for super festive colour and long lasting plants!
Poinsettia originally come from Mexico, where it grows to be a big, tall shrubby plant that will grow to several metres and comes back year after year, but of course we grow them just for the one season here in the UK. They’ve been very clever with the breeding, because they’ve now bred them to be more of a dwarf plant to make them suitable as a houseplant. The colours have also changed, the bright scarlet red is the traditional colour but you can also now get creamy yellowy or pink bracts on them, so the choice is yours.
As poinsettia come from a warmer climate down in Mexico, bear in mind that they’re a warm loving plant – they hate cold weather, they hate draughts, and they will completely drop their foliage very quickly in those conditions. So, if you’re buying your poinsettia then be sure to buy it from somewhere warm like a garden centre or a supermarket, but never from a garage forecourt on an outdoor market stall, because the plant will have been chilled and then when you get it home, usually a few days after, it will start to defoliate. The polythene sleeve is there to give it some protection as well, but if it’s really cold when you buy it, ask the shop if they can put a paper bag around it or put it in an old cardboard box. Don’t leave it for hours in the cold as it won’t like it.
Once you’ve got it home, the first thing you need to do is to take the sleeve off, either by cutting it off or sliding it off. It’s inevitable that one or two leaves will have fallen off, so just pick those off from around the base, and if you’ve got the odd leaf on there that’s looking a little bit yellow then just take that off too. If you give it a shake anything that’s yellow will fall off, so you can just tidy those leaves away.
Poinsettias need moisture, but they don’t like to be soggy and they don’t like to be too dry. If they get dry they tell you very quickly as they will wilt, so the aim is to keep them just moist. Put it in a pot holder and give it a drink so that the compost feels moist, but don’t allow it to stand in water and be soggy. When you have watered it, any water standing in the base of the pot holder needs to be tipped away, as that will create waterlogged conditions that it doesn’t like. Keep it moist and only water it again when you feel the compost and you think it’s starting to dry out.
Temperature wise, ideally it needs between 16-21 degrees Centigrade (that’s around 65-70 Fahrenheit) so most houses are okay with that, but again avoid a very cold room – if you’ve got a room that hasn’t gotten heating in it then this isn’t the plant for that. It also needs good light, so ideally a windowsill is perfect where it’s got the light coming in, bearing in mind of course at this time of the year that we only get short days, so that’s why it’s important that they get this light. Sometimes when you draw the curtains at night it makes a cold area, so if you’re worried that it’s going to get chilled at night then take it off the windowsill and bring it into the room. Then, the following day, it can go back on the windowsill. Be sure to avoid any draughty places too.
If you can give your poinsettia the temperature it needs, keep it moist and plenty of light, it will look good for several weeks and will go on well into the new year! Very often, people get to the new year and after Christmas has gone they just throw their poinsettia away, but if you want to you can keep it. The secret is to prune it down around March-April time, and then it will bush out and make growth, and then hopefully will colour up for you next year.
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