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How to Grow Poinsettia

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The quintessential holiday houseplant, the poinsettia is actually a tropical plant native to Mexico. The true flowers are tiny, yellow centers that are surrounded by showy, colorful leaf bracts that are typically thought of as the flowers.

While poinsettia is grown as a colorful landscape shrub in southern Florida, California, and Mexico, most know it as the familiar pot plant sold during the holiday season.

Available in increasingly abundant choices, poinsettias bloom up to 6 weeks in bright indirect light. After flowering, the poinsettia can be kept as a houseplant and forced to rebloom the next year, although forcing can be difficult. Some gardeners pride themselves on their ability to grow poinsettia and its colorful bracts year after year.

Get to know Poinsettia

  • Plant type: Tropical evergreen or deciduous shrub
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 9-11
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Height and width: 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall, 10 to 12 inches (25-30cm) wide
  • Foliage: Sturdy stems carry broad green leaves up to 7 inches (17cm) long.
  • Flowers: Tiny yellow flowers are surrounded by colorful bracts that look like flowers.
  • Bloom time: Winter
  • Uses: Best known as an indoor holiday decoration. Used as a large, somewhat rangy landscape shrub in warm climates without winter frost.
  • Common name: Poinsettia
  • Botanical name: Euphobia pulcherrima
  • Family: Euphorbiaceae
  • Origin: Mexico and Central America
Red poinsettia, a traditional Christmas flower
Red poinsettia, a traditional Christmas flower

Where to plant Poinsettia

  • Indoors place poinsettia in a sunny spot and protect from sudden temperature changes both cold and hot.
  • Poinsettias prefer a humus-rich, slight sandy, well-drained soil when growing outdoors; indoors plant poinsettias in an all-purpose potting mix

When to plant Poinsettia

  • Set outdoors after the last frost in spring.

Planting and spacing Poinsettia

  • Space 8 to 12 inches (20-30cm) apart indoors; outdoors growing as a shrub set plants 3 feet apart

How to water and feed Poinsettia

  • Water when the soil is slightly dry to the touch. Be sure the container or foil wrapping has holes for drainage.
  • To encourage poinsettia to rebloom, begin feeding in late winter once a month with a houseplant fertilizer.

Poinsettia care

  • Leaves will drop due to low light, drafts, or over-watering.

Growing Poinsettia as a houseplant

  • Poinsettias purchased for the winter holidays can be grown indoors until the bracts drop in the spring.
  • When bracts drop, cut the plants back and either continue to grow the original plant or use the prunings for rooting new plants.
  • Plants benefit from being placed outdoors in partial sun during the summer and can be pinched to keep [p them compact.
  • Move plants back indoors in early autumn.
  • To force them to bloom for the holidays, shade them with black cloth with a box that covers the entire plant, or by putting the plant in a closet each night.
  • Shade the plants for 15 hours each night for about six weeks.
  • pending on the variety, plants will bloom in 8 to 11 weeks after the start of the shading process.

How to make Poinsettias bloom again

  • In early spring, cut the stems back to 4” to 6” (10-15cm); in mid-spring repot in a slightly larger container.
  • Move outdoors to a sunny spot after nighttime temperatures are about 60°F (15°C).
  • Pinch out growing shoots once or twice to keep plant compact.
  • Water regularly and feed every 2 weeks while outdoors.
  • Before nighttime temperatures fall to 55°F (13°C)., bring indoors to a sunny window.
  • In early autumn, initiate flower buds by moving the plant to a closet or other darkened room each night to give the plant more than 12 hours of darkness.

Poinsettia propagation

  • Take tip or stem cuttings in late spring and early summer; allow to dry overnight before rooting in moist sand.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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