The poinsettia. It is a plant that is inextricably linked to Christmas. It can be bought all year round, but is by far the most often bought in the last month of the year. Because of its beautiful colors, this plant is very popular as a gift for visitors (or to buy yourself of course). Unfortunately, it is also a difficult plant to care for. It happens all too often that you get one at the end of November and your poinsettia does not even make it to Christmas. Fortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Like all other houseplants, it simply has certain requirements (or demands). As long as you meet them, you’ll find that it’s actually that simple. How to take care of it you can read on this page. You will also find information about the origin, growth habit, and a number of fun facts and info about Poinsettia.
Table of Contents
Origin of the poinsettia
The plants we buy as “poinsettia plants” come from the Euphorbia Pulcherrima. This plant grows indigenous to large parts of Mexico. The funny thing is that the poinsettia native is a shrub that grows huge. It is no exception that the plants there grow up to four meters tall!
The plant caught the attention of German plant breeder Ecke. He was living in America at the time and brought the plant home. There he grew a new variety called Oakleaf and brought it to the American market
Of course, this new variety was not four feet tall, but a compact houseplant that was easy to give as a gift. Also, this new variety had much nicer and larger bracts. These are the leaves that give the plant its characteristic star shape. You can see this clearly in the photo below.
Growth and flowering Christmas star
A real shrub
Above we already wrote that this plant originates from the south of America and can grow up to four meters high. In that region the plant blooms from November to January, where it is a real shrub. In order to keep the plant small, a different species has been bred. In addition, the plant is sprayed with brake dust during cultivation. Brake dust is a growth regulator. A growth regulator is widely used in the cultivation of plants. In this case, it keeps the plant small. In some cases, with other plants, this process is stimulated the other way around to make a plant grow bigger.
You may have heard of the term “short-day plant.” A short-day plant is a plant that is stimulated to form flower buds in the fall. In addition to the poinsettia, the Chrysanthemum, for example, is also a short-day plant. Each plant has its own specific requirements regarding the amount of light to bloom. The changing strength of the sun and the temperature are also important for the formation of buds.
Growers give the poinsettia alternating 14 hours of darkness and 10 hours of light. If they do this for a period of forty days, the plant will flower. This is a pretty precise job, but a grower should mimic the natural conditions of the plant as best as possible.
The flower and the bracts
By “blooming” the poinsettia, we don’t actually mean the actual flower of the plant. We often mistake the red bracts for the flower, but this is not it. Bracts are the leaves directly beneath the flower. These leaves change color to attract insects to the actual flowers. These flowers are yellow and sit right in the center of the plant, between the brightly colored bracts. You can see this clearly in the photo below.
So in addition to the formation of flowers, the bracts also change color in response to shortening days. Below in the picture you see a poinsettia with bracts that are still discoloring. Originally these bracts were red, but nowadays you also find poinsettia species with white, yellow and pink bracts.
Your poinsettia is not a disposable plant! Many people think it will only last a few weeks, but nothing could be further from the truth. With the right care, your poinsettia can last a very long time. Here you can read how to do this.
Immediately after purchase
Did you buy your poinsettia in the winter (like most) and are you heading home? Then pack the plant well to protect it from the cold. The name of the plant, and the time of year it is popular, suggest otherwise, but it absolutely cannot withstand frost.=> Can a poinsettia be placed outside?
Position and light
Place your poinsettia in a spot where it gets plenty of light, but not direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can get very hot behind glass. This will scorch the delicate leaves and that would be a shame. In the early morning a little direct sunlight is still possible, if this really cannot be avoided. Then the sun is not so hot.
Above you have read that the poinsettia plant blooms with less than 12 hours of light. If all goes well, you have already received or bought the plant in bloom. If you want to keep it as beautiful as possible, you should try to keep to those 12 hours. In terms of daylight, this is not a problem in December. If you notice that the colors of your Poinsettia are starting to fade, assess whether the plant is getting too much artificial light. This can also have a negative effect on the flowering.
Did you know that your poinsettia originally grows in very warm areas? This plant is native to Mexico, where the climate is subtropical. A temperature between 18°C and 22°C will do. It is important to note, however, that your poinsettia cannot withstand strongly fluctuating temperatures. These can be caused by drafts, an open window, an air conditioner or a radiator. Keep your plant away from these.
Do not drown
What do you think is the most common cause that houseplants, including your poinsettia, die from? The answer may surprise you: overwatering. So it’s not a shortage, but rather a surplus that kills your beloved plants.Once you know how to handle it, it’s a piece of cake. We have a page with a clear explanation. Continue reading about watering the poinsettia.
Potting soil for the Poinsettia
You can use a standard potting soil for houseplants. It is important that you ensure a good flow, see below.
Your poinsettia hates to stand in wet soil for a long time. If this happens, root rot occurs. Because the roots no longer function properly, they can no longer absorb the nutrients the plant needs. This causes reduced growth, leaf drop and eventually leads to the death of the plant.
To prevent this, you must ensure proper drainage. Always put your plant in a pot with holes, or drill them yourself. Put a layer of hydro grains at the bottom of the pot. This way it can always flow out of the pot and does not stay at the roots.
After the plant blooms, you will see the colors fade. After all, the colored leaves were needed to attract insects and are no longer needed. By caring for your poinsettia in a specific way now, you can ensure that it will bloom again next year. This is what you call “keeping over”. Read about it on our page about poinsettia survival.
Do not give nutrition during the flowering period. So as long as the bracts are colored you do not need to give any plant nutrition. Feeding starts in June and continues until the colors start to appear. During this period, give a little liquid houseplant food once every two weeks.
This plant can be a little tricky to prune. A useful step-by-step plan can be found on the page about pruning poinsettias. By the way, did you know that you don’t have to throw away the pruned parts, but that you can use them for cuttings?
Different names for the same plant
Why we call this plant “poinsettia” is clear from the above picture. The arrangement of the beautifully colored bracts takes on the shape of a star. This plant is also known under a number of other names. This is often the case with plants: if they become popular in different countries at the same time, they are given several names at the same time.
The plant growth is native to Mexico under the botanical name “Euphorbia Pulcherrima.” This name was given to the plant by the botanist Wildenow, who came from Germany. As a plant lover, you may recognize the name “Euphorbia”. This is a plant genus which falls within the spurge family. Perhaps you know the Euphorbia Tirucalli (Pencil plant) or the Euphorbia Leuconeura (Madagascar Jewel). The species name “Pulcherrima” can be roughly translated as “the most beautiful”.
Another well-known name for this plant is Poinsettia. Although a large number of plant lovers will recognize this name, it is mainly America where this name is most often used.This is because the plant was named after the American J.R. Poinsett when introduced to America. Besides being a psychologist, he was a popular diplomat in Mexico and largely responsible for the good relations between the two countries. This is still celebrated annually on December 12 on National Poinsettia Day.
Types of poinsettias
Did you know that there are over 200 different types of poinsettias? Some are very small, only 10 centimeters in diameter. Others are very large, up to 60 centimeters. The red variety is by far the most common, but the white poinsettia is also gaining popularity.
Frequently asked questions and problems
Is this plant poisonous?
Yes, unfortunately this plant is poisonous if ingested. Now it’s not that you can’t have this plant in the house at all if you have pets or small children. There is a page on our website that explains exactly why this plant is toxic and when it is (or is not) a problem. Further reading: is the poinsettia poisonous?
Why is the poinsettia plant so popular?
We think the plant owes its popularity to the colors of the leaves. Now other colors also exist, but during the rise of this plant you only had the red variant. In the December period, the days are short and dark. Then the need for color and cheerfulness is greatest. Just think of the enormous amount of lights we hang in our trees, on our houses and in other places on the street every year.
During the Christmas period we also visit each other a lot. A plant is always nice to give, but red is also a color that is associated with Christmas. It was not long before this plant became the gift that you give each other during that period. This plant is available all year round in our garden centers, but by far the most of them are sold in November and December.
What is the legend of the Christmas star?
You may have heard of the legend of the Christmas star. The story says that in Mexico there was a little child who was too poor to buy flowers for the celebration of Christmas. An angel appeared and told the little child that a bunch of weeds would also be a loving and beautiful gift. The baby picked the weeds and placed them in the manger. Suddenly, the bunch of weeds began to bloom beautifully in bright red colors. The poinsettias were a blessing from the angel.
The plant drops leaves
Oh no, your poinsettia is falling out! When your plant drops its leaves it is a sign that something is not to its liking. Generally speaking, there are three things that could be going on:
- The plant loses leaves because the temperature is too low. It should not fall below 18°C. Remember that this plant grows in very warm areas. The low temperature can also easily be caused by drafts.
- A second possibility is that the roots have done for a long time in too soggy soil. Read about proper drainage in the care tips.
- Third, the problem may have to do with too low humidity. Mist the leaves daily with a plant sprayer and assess whether the problem has been resolved.
Poinsettia gets black leaves
Black leaves are usually a reaction to a fungus. Look very closely to see if this is the case. If it is indeed a fungus you should remove and discard all black leaves. If it is not a fungus it could be dehydration. For example, the air near a stove is very dry and can cause the leaves to dry out.
The poinsettia gets yellow leaves
Yellow leaves are practically always the result of root rot, which in turn is a result of too soggy soil. One sip too many is not such a problem, but structurally it causes root rot. The roots can absorb less and less nutrients and the leaves will turn yellow.
If the soil is very soggy you should replace it. Otherwise you can simply wait a while with the watering can until the soil is slightly moist again. Read the care tips on how to ensure proper drainage to avoid this problem in the future.
The plant hangs limply
Drooping leaves mean: Thirsty! Give your beloved poinsettia a sip.
Is this an annual plant?
Contrary to what many people think, this is a perennial plant. So when the plant has finished flowering, there is no need to throw it away. We have a separate page with tips on what you can do after flowering.
What is the flowering period of the poinsettia?
This plant comes into flower after a period of little light. In this plant’s natural habitat, that would be in the spring, after the shorter days. So how is it that you can buy a poinsettia already in bloom in November? The plants you buy then have been artificially brought to bloom in greenhouses. There, under a tight schedule of dark and light, they are encouraged to bloom. So you can have such a beautiful flowering plant on the table at Christmas!
|Botanical name||Euphorbia Pulcherrima|
|Also known as||Christmas Star, Christmas Star Plant, Poinsettia|
|Place of Stand||Lots of indirect light|