Red poinsettias

How To Grow Perfect Poinsettias

Celebrate the joy of Christmas with festive poinsettias

Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, are a tender perennial tropical shrub of the spurge family and are usually grown as a houseplant over the Christmas period. They are originally from the deciduous forests of Mexico and Central America. They can eventually reach a height of 4m (16’), but most of them are discarded after they have stopped ‘flowering’ in late winter. The red ‘petals’ are actually leaves. The Aztecs used them to produce a red dye. They first became associated with Christmas in Mexico in the 16th century. There are now over 100 cultivated varieties in a myriad of colours apart from the traditional red; red/pink marbled, red with cream splashes, cream/lime variegated, pink/cream variegated, pink, salmon and white.

Red poinsettia with cream splashes

When buying your plant make sure that the shop wraps the plant, covering the top completely, if they don’t do this then go to a reputable supplier. Don’t buy them if they are displayed outside, beside the door, under an over-door heat curtain or next to the cold window. They are liable to drop all their leaves once you unwrap them at home and there is no way to recover them.

Position

Place in a bright position away from strong sunlight and away from a direct heat source, such as a radiator or a fire. Also keep away from any draughts. They need a constant temperature of at least 18C (65F).

Cream poinsettia

Watering and feeding

Keep just damp, allowing the plant to dry out between waterings; they will rot if overwatered. Feed monthly with a high potassium feed, such as Tomorite.

Re-flowering

Cut the plant hard back in April to 10cm (4”).

Re-pot into a slightly larger pot in a mixture of 3 parts John Innes No 3 and one part horticultural grit or Perlite.

Grow in a light, but not direct sunlight, and cool spot over the summer. A temperature of 15 – 18C (60 – 65F) would be ideal. Pinch out the growing tips of the new growth, to encourage bushy growth, until late summer.

Keep just damp and feed fortnightly with a balanced fertiliser.

From November place in a completely dark spot at night for 12 – 14 hours, a thick bin liner or light free cupboard. If it receives any artificial light during these dark hours it will hamper the formation of the coloured leaves. It needs bright light during the day. A constant temperature of 18C (65F) is also required.

Pink poinsettia

Propagation

Softwood cuttings can be taken in May.

Beware of touching the milky sap as, like all the Euphorbias, it can be an irritant.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas