Tips on caring for your poinsettias

Garden Life
At Christmas time the poinsettia, with its brightly coloured leaves, provides a beautiful splash of colour in our homes and is ideal as a decoration. In the run-up to Christmas, a large selection of Poinsettias are available to purchase in flower shops, market stalls and supermarkets. Such is their popularity as a Christmas decoration, the poinsettia has become one of the most widely-sold plants across the world at this time of year. Their red, pink or cream-coloured bracts have become a staple decoration at Christmas in many homes.


Care should be taken when purchasing a poinsettia. In many supermarkets, flowers are sometimes placed in the entrance areas and are thus exposed to constant draughts. As poinsettias are highly sensitive to cold, they can be damaged and therefore won’t last long. It is best to select a poinsettia which has been standing in a warm area of the store or direct from your local florist.


The poinsettia should only be moderately watered. It is highly sensitive to water collecting around its roots and will drop its leaves if overwatered. It is best to water it only when the soil is dry. However, you need to ensure that it doesn’t dry out completely, so use soft, temperate water for this. After watering, remove any excess water from the pot to avoid waterlogging and to prevent the roots from rotting. If leaves do begin to fall out, 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.


For healthy growth, a poinsettia requires a bright, warm location. It should not be subjected to direct sun or 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 its leaves can properly develop their colourful, intensive shades.


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 flower correctly. 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 ensure your poinsettia develops as colourful leaves as possible.


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

Photo: © Andreas Blakkolb -