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POINSETTIA CARE GUIDE


The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is among the most recognised seasonal plants on earth. Coming in all shapes, sizes and colours, the Christmas holiday wouldn’t be the same without them.

Having said that, poinsettias do have a reputation for being tricky to maintain after the holidays. However, with a little of the right care and attention, you can actually keep a poinsettia all year round. Follow this guide to discover how to look after poinsettias with ease.

How to Water a poinsettia


How to Tell if a Poinsettia Needs Water

The best way to determine if a poinsettia needs water is to poke into the potting soil with your finger:

  • Fully Dry
    If the soil is dry all the way through and the pot feels light when picked up, soak the plant in the sink. Aim to avoid dry soil all together.

  • Half Dry
    If the top inch of soil feels dry but underneath is damp, a light water to top up is ideal - aim to keep the soil damp throughout at all times.

  • Damp
    If the soil is damp throughout, leave the poinsettia and check back tomorrow with another soil test.

  • Sodden/Wet
    If the soil is continually wet or sodden it will put stress on the roots. Leave the plant alone for a week before watering again.

Photo credit Stars For Europe

How Much Water Does a Poinsettia Need?

Like most house plants, too much water is just as bad as too little.

A poinsettia will need enough water to keep the potting soil damp but not sodden. However, it is important to remember that watering frequency for any plant will depend on:



1. The Size of the Plant


2. Where the Plant is Located


3. The Room Temperature
Don't be put off, it's easy when you know how. Like most plants a poinsettia is measured by the size of its pot. Here are approximate measurements of water to give for weekly watering when the potting soil is low moisture (each measurements ensures some water will drain through the drainage holes in the base of the pot):

Poinsettia Watering Measurements

Pot Diameter in Inches


4"
Approx 175ml or
1/3 of a pint
5"
Approx 275ml or
½ a pint
6"
Approx 350ml or
over ½ a pint
7"
Approx 475ml or
¾ of a pint
8"
Approx 570ml or
1 pint

Three Ways to Water a Poinsettia

If you have ever gingerly attempted to water a houseplant that sits comfortably on an expensive piece of furniture, you will know how tricky it is to give the plant a thorough watering without making a mess. Here are three ways to water a poinsettia more easily:

1
Light Daily Water into the Soil
A light daily water using a spouted jug is ideal for keeping poinsettia potting soil damp. Using no more than a splash or 2-3 tablespoons should be enough.
2
Sink Soak
In a sink, gently pour water into the potting mix until it flows through the drainage holes of the pot soaking the soil. Then allow the pot to drain fully for 10 minutes before returning it to its home. Do this weekly.
3
Ice Cubes
Curiously, ice cubes are a great way to water because they aren't messy, they release moisture slowly into the soil and prevent over watering. Start with an ice cube per day and keep your eye on the soil moisture.

poinsettias & sunlight


Why are Poinsettias Wrapped Like That?

When you buy or receive a gifted poinsettia you will usually find that it is wrapped in foil or thick wrap like the one pictured.

Not only is the wrap attractive but it serves a purpose of keeping the poinsettia away from the cold. Despite being a seasonal plant, poinsettias are actually tropical which means they hate nothing more than being cold!

This means putting a poinsettia in the right light is important.

Where You Should Place a Poinsettia?

Before finding a new home, let's clear up a rumour. Poinsettias are not toxic or poisonous to humans or pets. Having said that, the white sap that you may notice around the stems and leaves can irritate some people's skin and cause a stomach upset if a large quantity is eaten so if you notice a lot of this, wear gloves to handle the plant.

Photo credit Stars For Europe

Taking that into account; here are four more things to consider when looking for the perfect place for a poinsettia:


1. Place in an area of constant room temperature of 16 - 22°C.


2. Keep the plant away from radiators, cold windows & draughts.


3. Place the plant so it is exposed to indirect sunlight throughout the daytime.


4. Avoid moving the plant from different rooms and temperatures too often.

Testing the Perfect Light

It can be tricky to judge if the poinsettia's new home has the best light conditions.

Here's a trick to help; at the height of a clear day, when the sun is highest in the sky, use your hand to cast a shadow over the top of/near to the plant shown below. Judge the darkness of the shadow to determine if the light is optimal:
Little to no shadow = Not enough light
Soft light grey shadow = perfect light intensity
Strong dark shadow = too much light

poinsettias & humidity



1) Misting
Misting is simply spraying the leaves (and bracts) of a poinsettia with a fine mist of water regularly to keep the plant humid.

Grab yourself a misting spray bottle & fill it with room temperature water. Spray the leaves of the poinsettia every other day for ideal humidity.
2) Pebble tray
Another simple way of keeping a poinsettia humid is a pebble tray. Find a tray or plate that has a larger diameter than the plant and then fill it with small rounded pebbles.

When water is poured into the tray with the pebbles, it slowly evaporates creating a humid environment for the plant sitting above. The pebbles simply separate the plant pot from the water and allow air to circulate over the water.

Pebble trays are also a great technique for orchid care.
! Keeping other plants in the same room can also help increase humidity. !

how to re-bloom a poinsettia


Quick Poinsettia Anatomy
As poinsettias are native to Mexico they sadly won't willingly bloom away from their natural environment.

When grown they are triggered to bloom by a dramatic change in light intensity.

Before we delve into that, here's a quick diagram to show you parts of the poinsettia plant:
12 Month Life Cycle for Re-Blooming
Following the quick steps below through the year will not only grow your poinsettia larger than those in the shops but they will also help produce an impressive bloom next December:
December
Full bloom, traditionally with beautiful red bracts (modified leaves)
February
Central flowers & red bracts fade away, stems become thicker & stickier and you may notice leaf drops or shrivelling
March
Stems to be cut under the first leaf node below the bracts
 
The plant may need repotting. Remove from pot and check the root ball (bundle of roots) to see if they are squashed as shown above.
June
If the roots are not squashed, return the plant into its pot and place outside. If they are squashed, gently release the roots with your hands so they dangle freely.
 
Find a pot approximately 4 inches larger than the previous and fill 2/3rds with all-purpose potting soil. Then place the plant outside in indirect sunlight.
July
You will notice lots of shoots from the top of the plant. Snip or 'pinch' these shoots so that it promotes outward growth for the rest of the year making your poinsettia fuller.
Late August
Bring the poinsettia indoors and place it in a suitable location in area of constant temperature.
September - December
Give the plant indirect sunlight between 8am-5pm. But then put the plant in a pitch black location between 5pm-8am. Do this for 3 weeks+.

Starving the poinsettia of light during this time prompts the familiar red bloom. If you notice little change to the colour of the bracts, make sure the plant is in total darkness for the 3 weeks+ and try longer periods of darkness or more days being subject to darkness.
! A minimum of 4 hours of light is required per day when doing this. !


how to feed a poinsettia


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The Best Plant Food

Any good quality all-purpose liquid plant food is suitable for feeding a poinsettia, although liquid or soluble food is by far the easiest to apply.

Feed the poinsettia with a spouted jug so you can aim into the soil. After fertilising, on the next water be sure to give the plant plenty of water perhaps using water technique 2 above to wash away any remaining fertilising salts.

Photo credit Stars For Europe

When to Fertilise a Poinsettia


February

Approximately 6 weeks after a poinsettia blooms in December, you will notice around February (shown in the life cycle) that the top portion begins to wilt and die. This is a good time to fertilise the plant using the recommendations from the manufacturer.

May

When new growth appears around May, fertilise the poinsettia again with ½ the normal strength.

June

In June when you move your poinsettia outside, feed the plant with ½ strength fertiliser to help with the change.

Every Subsequent 30 Days

Every 30 days after this, continue to fertilise the plant with ½ strength doses until the plant is ready to bloom in December.