A beautiful poinsettia plant.

A beautiful poinsettia plant. Photo Credit: Tyler Jones, University of Florida

It’s Christmastime and time to pull your poinsettias out of the closet. Oh, you don’t have poinsettias left over from Christmas’ past? Well, if you follow some simple steps then you may be enjoying this year’s crop for years to come. But first, let’s go over a few fun poinsettia facts.

Poinsettia Facts

  • The distinctive, colorful part of the poinsettia is not its flower but its petal-like leaves, botanically known as bracts. Bract color varies from red to pink, white, marble, orange, and even purple.
  • The poinsettia is native to Mexico. The poinsettia got it’s name from the botanist and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825.
  • Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous to people or pets, however their milky sap can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.


With proper care, your poinsettias may stay colorful for many months. Poinsettias can retain their color until March if they are not exposed to freezing temperatures.

  • Location. Poinsettias grow best in well-lit areas, but direct sun or hot lights can dry out the plants.  They need at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight each day.
  • Temperature. Keep your poinsettias away from drafts and chilly air. Room temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit are best.
  • Watering. Water your poinsettia when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Place a saucer under the pot, and drain the saucer if water starts to collect in it. Keep the soil from getting soggy. Too much water can kill a poinsettia.
  • Humidity. Gently spray the plants with a mist sprayer or place them on gravel trays. Slightly humid air will help prolong color and life span.
  • Fertilization. Lightly fertilize the plants every 4 to 6 weeks. High levels of fertilizer will reduce the quality of the plant.
  • Storage/Recycling. When the leaves and bracts begin to fall off (usually in April), cut the plant back and give it sun, water, and fertilizer regularly. Starting in October, place the plant in complete darkness for 14 hours each day and in bright light the rest of the day.  In December, your plant will begin to develop those beautiful, colorful bracts again.

Cut Flowers

Poinsettias may be used as cut flowers, but the stems must be treated right away. The milky sap must thicken inside the stems to prevent the plants from wilting.

Immediately after cutting, dunk the cut ends of the stems in almost boiling water for about one minute and then immediately place them in cool water. Keep the flowers away from the steam to prevent them from being damaged. Another method is singeing the cut ends of the stems with a flame for a few seconds and then placing the stems in cool water.

After the stems have been treated and placed in water, store the poinsettias in a cool place for at least eighteen to twenty-four hours before they are used in arrangements. Cut several more stems than you need, because not all flowers/bracts will survive.


Matt Lollar
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