9 Golden Rules to Extend the Lifespan of your Poinsettia: the Perfect Houseplant
Originating from Mexico and with over eight million plants sold in the UK every year, the poinsettia (botanical name: Euphorbia pulcherrima) has certified itself as the UK’s number one houseplant over the winter season.
Flowering in December and January, poinsettias are the ultimate home decoration, and contrary to popular belief, they aren't difficult to care for. At the end of winter pop yours on the compost heap or into the recycling bin, or you can try to get your poinsettia to bloom again for later in the year.
While red is the traditional and most widely available poinsettia, specialist poinsettia breeders have been hard at work over the past few decades in creating more than 150 different varieties, including beautiful pinks, oranges, creams and whites.
1. Many supermarkets scoop poinsettias in with flowers, placing them by the store's front door in the hope customers will be tempted on the way in or out. But, you should never buy a poinsettia sat next to a set of automatic doors that open every 30 seconds, because it will have been damaged by those UK winds it never had to experience in Mexico. Exposure to draughts or temperatures below 12°C will cause damage. Although it's not visible at first, it may cause the poinsettia to drop its leaves soon after being brought home.
2. A healthy poinsettia plant will have intact bracts. If the little yellow buds between the coloured bracts – the actual flowers – still look tight then you'll know that the quality of the plant is good.
3. If possible, check your poinsettia's soil before buying. It should be neither dripping wet nor totally dry, and if it is, it's probably not been given proper TLC so might not last in your care.
4. Finally, when you've chosen your poinsettia, protect it from the wind and make sure to wrap it up in paper for the journey home.
5. Poinsettias don't like a lot of water. Always remember that the plant's root bale should neither dry out nor be drenched. Overwatering can quickly lead to waterlogging, which in turn causes root rot and leaves you with a dead plant.
6. You should get into habit of inspecting its leaves. If they're turning yellow or falling off, you're probably not watering it right. Much like the case with orchids, many flower enthusiasts mean well but overwater poinsettias when they only really need a little. A small sip once every two days will be sufficient, or if you're opting to immerse the whole root bale in water, rather than pouring, then just one dip per week should do. Small pots need watering more often than big ones, and remember: poinsettias prefer room-temperature water.
In the right temperature
7. Poinsettias need warmth and light. It can be kept close to a radiator but it must be kept away from droughts (that means NO fireplaces, open doorways, open windows or breezy hallways).
8. Just keep it somewhere that attracts daylight; a windowsill would work, so long as the window isn't left open, and bear in mind its favourite temperature falls between 15 - 20°C, so it should be happy in most living rooms.
Life after Winter
9. To ensure it survives until next year, you will need to prune the poinsettia in April, to about 10cm (4in), and keep it at a temperature of 13°C. Repot in May and grow it in a cool and light place over summer, ideally at a temperature of 15-18°C.
When November comes around, it is time to start forcing the plant – it will require 12 hours of bright daylight followed by 12 hours of complete darkness to alert it to the shorter days of winter, which will encourage the red flowers to flourish.