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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Softwood cuttings can be taken in May.
Beware of touching the milky sap as, like all the Euphorbias, it can be an irritant.