Tips on caring for your poinsettias

Garden Life
At Christmas time, the poinsettia with its colourful bracts provides a lovely splash of colour in our homes. It is ideal as decoration. In the pre-Christmas period, a large selection of Poinsettias can be purchased in markets and flower stalls. These plants, with their red, pink or cream-coloured bracts, are for us just as much a part of Christmas as are Christmas biscuits, mulled wine and Christmas tree baubles. The poinsettia has meanwhile become one of the most widely-sold plants across the world.

Purchase

Care should be taken even when purchasing a poinsettia. In many supermarkets, poinsettias are placed in the entrance areas and are thus exposed to constant draughts. Because these plants are highly sensitive to cold, they can be damaged, and you won't have them very long. It is best to select a poinsettia which has been standing in a warm salesroom or directly in a florist’s shop.

Watering

The poinsettia should only be moderately watered. It is highly sensitive to water collecting around its roots, and will drop its leaves. It is best to water it only when the soil is dry. However, please ensure that it doesn’t dry out completely. Soft, temperate water is best used to water your plant. After watering, remove any excess water from the pot to avoid waterlogging and to prevent the roots from rotting. If the poinsettia starts to drop its leaves, it may be due to the fact that it has been over-watered for a longer period of time and that the roots have started to rot. If this is the case, do not water your poinsettia for a while. Begin to water again moderately once the soil has completely dried out again.

Location

For healthy growth, a poinsettia requires a bright, warm location. It should neither be subjected to direct sun nor to strong draughts. For this reason, a windowsill is generally not an ideal location, as draughts can reach the plant via tilted windows.
During the summer, it is essential that the plant is not placed in direct sun. However, if appropriately shaded, your poinsettia can be placed on a windowsill. In winter, a couple of hours of sun per day do not harm your plant. Nevertheless, the poinsettia should receive less than 12 hours of light/sun per day so that it can properly develop the colourful, intensive shades of the bracts.

Flowering

When the days become shorter, the poinsettia starts to flower. Plants from the previous year have to be “tricked” into flowering prior to Christmas. Because many households remain illuminated until the late evening, the day is still too long for the plants, in spite of it being winter. The poinsettia should receive less than 12 hours of light/sun per day so that it can properly develop the colourful, intensive shades of the bracts. In order to simulate shorter days, the plant should be kept for approximately six weeks in a darkened room for 12 hours, or alternatively should be protected from the light by a cardboard box. This simple trick will make your poinsettia flower.
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Decoration

Depending on requirements and personal taste, your poinsettia can also be decorated with gold thread or little stars. It is up to your personal taste to decide whether the plant looks best as it is or whether it needs further embellishment.

Photo: © Andreas Blakkolb - Fotolia.com