Poinsettias can be tricky to maintain indoors even for a few weeks. These Poinsettia plant care tips can help keep yours stay alive and looking good.
It’s that time of year when these colorful plants make their way into our homes. Something living and growing in December. It’s a Christmas miracle! They appear around Thanksgiving and bring us cheer throughout the winter holiday season.
Poinsettias are the most popular plant sold here in the United States with almost 50 million pots sold last year.
Note: this post was originally published on 11/17/2015. It was updated & republished on 11/5/2020 & then again on 12/6/2022.
Poinsettia Plant Care Tips
Poinsettias are happily grown in climate-controlled greenhouses. Then, they’re foiled and sleeved so they can be sent out on trucks to their retail destinations across the country.
Because of that, they’re usually exposed to cold drafts and low or no light. They’re crammed together on display racks for sale in grocery stores, Home Depot, Lowes, local garden centers (not so much cramming here!), and more. Poinsettias have been through it all before they even get into your hands and find a place in your home.
I love Poinsettias and always have a couple in my home during the holiday season to brighten things up. I’ve kept 1 looking good for almost 2 months. So it’s possible if all the factors are right and they’re properly maintained.
Follow these tips to keep this quintessential holiday plant looking healthy and beautiful throughout the holiday season.
(1) Purchase healthy plants.
A healthy, fresh Poinsettia plant will last longer. They usually come wrapped in foil so peel it back if you can to examine the plant. Check the lower foliage to make sure it looks good.
Healthy green foliage is a good sign. If there are too many yellow leaves on the lower and inner stems and in the grow pot, it’s best not to buy it.
The plants should have lots of colorful leaves (technically called bracts) with small yellow flowers in the center. Those flower buds should still be intact and just opening or partially open. You want to make sure those yellow flowers in the center of the bracts are still showing, otherwise, the plants are on their way out.
If your Poinsettias have come in paper or plastic plant sleeves, remove them as soon as you get home. The plants should be exposed to light and air as soon as possible.
Here’s more info to help you Pick Out The Perfect Poinsettia and make it last.
(2) Place your Poinsettia plants in bright locations.
Poinsettias are Succulents and like as much natural bright light as you can give them. Just make sure they’re not sitting in a cold window touching the glass.
(3) A bit of temperature fluctuation is best.
Poinsettia plants like it on the warmer (not hot) side during the day and cooler at night. It can be tricky to find that balance but do your best.
If you turn your heat back at night to around 60-65 degrees F, then your Poinsettias will be happier and last longer. The warmer you keep your house, the faster your Poinsettia flowers will open up. That means the bloom time will be shorter.
We’ve also done posts on Holiday Plants For Christmas and Blooming Christmas Plants that you might want to check out. All with images!
(4) Strike a balance with watering.
Watering is a critical part of Poinsettia plant care.
Surprisingly, these plants with large, smooth leaves are Euphorbias (Euphorbia pulcherrima to be exacting) which means they’re succulents. Unlike a Pencil Cactus which is also a Euphorbia, you don’t want your Poinsettias to totally dry out while in bloom.
The soil should be slightly moist to the touch. If kept too dry, their lower leaves will start to shrivel and drop off.
Conversely, if you keep your Poinsettias too wet, they’ll also lose their lower leaves. The soil becomes waterlogged which will lead to root rot. This often happens when people don’t take off the foil or take them out of the decorative pots when watering.
This means the excess water can’t drain out of the bottom of the pot, the roots stay too wet, and your beautiful Christmas plants can die. To avoid this, don’t let your Poinsettia plants sit in water.
It’s hard to give a time schedule but as a (very) general rule, water your Poinsettias about once a week. As with all houseplants, how often you water will depend on your home’s environment.
You need to find that happy in-between when it comes to watering your Poinsettia when blooming – not too wet and not too dry.
(5) Remove the foil when you water your Poinsettia plants.
You want to take your Poinsettias out of the foil (or decorative pot) so you can give them a good drink. Water the soil thoroughly and let it all drain out before placing it back the plants back in the decorative containers.
If you have a saucer placed under the plant, make sure it doesn’t have water sitting in it.
Have more questions about caring for Poinsettias? Here we answer the most Common Questions About Poinsettias.
(6) Keep them away from heaters & cold drafts.
Plain and simple, Poinsettia plants don’t like hot or cold air blasting at them. They won’t appreciate being placed right next to a fireplace that’s in use either.
Poinsettia Plant Care Video Guide
Are Poinsettias toxic to pets?
There are varying thoughts of belief on this topic. I also answer this down below in the FAQs but wanted to include it as its own category because many of us (me included) have pets.
Poinsettias emit a white, milky sap (just like the Pencil Cactus and other Euphorbias). It was once a popular belief that Poinsettias were considered to be extremely toxic.
Everything I’ve recently read now points to the fact that this sap is much less toxic than originally thought.
This is good news indeed if you have pets and are worried about them being in close proximity to these festive Christmas plants.
However, if your pets like to chew on plants, it’s best to display your Poinsettias where they don’t have easy access to them. We all want to have a safe Christmas season after all!
Poinsettia Plant Care FAQs
Getting yours to bloom for the Christmas season the following year can take some effort. Poinsettias need an equal or slightly greater amount of complete darkness vs light to bloom, just like Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus.
They require 12-14 hours of total darkness per day for 6-8 weeks to set color and produce flowers.
When you start this depends on when you want it to bloom. The end of September to mid-October is generally the time to begin the process.
You’ll need to put it in a closet or place a large box over it every night for that prolonged darkness and then bring it back out or remove the box every morning for exposure to light. A room in your home that is dark for 12-14 hours, has windows, and isn’t used on a regular basis (like a guest room) would work also.
You’ll also want to cut back on regular watering.
No. Poinsettias are tropical plants and when sold for the holiday season are hothouse or greenhouse grown. They don’t like daytime or nighttime temperatures below 45-50F.
Cold rain and cold wind will cause damage. Those colorful bracts we love will fall right off!
They do grow outside year-round in temperate climates, zones 10-11. When I lived in Santa Barbara, California one of my neighbors had a 10″ Poinsettia tree (see the last photo) growing in their front garden.
Because Poinsettias are succulent plants, they like to be kept on the dry side. When in bloom, I don’t let mine go completely dry, about 3/4 of the way dry. Quantity isn’t as relevant as frequency.
Make sure all the water flows out of the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. Remember, the surface of the soil may be dry but it’s a good idea to check soil moisture lower down in the pot where the majority of the roots are.
Poinsettias will let you know when they’re unhappy – their leaves curl, shrivel, turn yellow, and/or drop when kept too wet or too dry.
Where you can see and enjoy it!
In terms of location, it loves and will do best in a bright sunny location. Keep yours away from heating vents and cold windows as well as out of cold drafts.
There are many colors of Poinsettias available these days. New cultivars have been introduced in a range of hues and sizes.
The ones with red leaves are still the most popular. White and pink are favorites too. They’re also available in yellow, orange, and salmon. You find them with bi-colored foliage and flowers as you’ll see in some of the images here.
If you come across a purple or blue Poinsettia, it’s a white one that’s been dyed.
Yes, they can but would enjoy summering outdoors. One thing to know about Poinsettias is that they’re deciduous or semi-deciduous.
They do come back every year and depending on the environment they’re in, will drop most or all of their leaves. For most of the year, they won’t have many leaves on their stems and look like stick plants.
For the above reason coupled with the “getting them to flower again” process, most people don’t keep them as houseplants from one year to the next. If you decide to, keep them in bright light (the cool sun is fine) and let them almost dry out in between waterings except when blooming.
For a few weeks, yes.
They do best in bright indirect light. I always keep mine in a sunny location with plenty of light (moderate exposure) but no direct exposure to keep it looking good.
If you’re trying to grow one to keep from year to year, low light won’t do.
Leaf drop has various causes.
Your Poinsettias could be dropping leaves due to not enough water, too much water, or a reaction to cool temps or drafts. When I buy my Poinsettias, I look in the grow pot to make sure there’s not a build-up of fallen leaves.
If you buy a less-than-healthy plant it probably won’t get better when you bring it home.
This has its own category above, but because it’s such a popular topic, I want to touch on it here in the FAQs.
Years ago, they were billed as being highly toxic and poisonous. Now, most experts say they’re mildly toxic. Even the ASPCA says Poinsettia plants are commonly overrated in terms of toxicity.
The leaves and stems emit a sap that could make them sick. I’ve had kitties my whole life and none of them have paid any attention to my poinsettias.
If your pets chew on plants, then keep the plants out of their reach.
Most people enjoy them seasonally only because they’ll drop their leaves and look like stick plants for a good period of time.
If you decide to grow yours as a part of your permanent houseplant collection, keep it in bright light (the cool sun is fine) and let it almost dry out in between waterings for most of the year.
Here are some of our houseplant guides you may find helpful: Guide To Watering Indoor Plants, Beginner’s Guide To Repotting Plants, 3 Ways To Successfully Fertilize Indoor Plants, How to Clean Houseplants, Winter Houseplant Care Guide, How to Increase Humidity for Houseplants.
This plant, also known as the Christmas Flower or Christmas Star, signifies success and good cheer. December 12th is National Poinsettia Day so pick up a few to help celebrate the season.
I hope these Poinsettia plant care tips help keep yours looking good and help make your holiday even more festive!
A joyous holiday to you,
We have more on Christmas Decor and DIY Crafts: Christmas Succulent Arrangements, Homemade Christmas Decorations Using Fruits & Spices, 7 Christmas Centerpiece Ideas, 2 Easy Last Minute Christmas Centerpieces, 3 Easy DIY Ornaments
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read our policies here. Your cost for the products will be no higher but Joy Us garden receives a small commission. Thank you for helping us spread the word & make the world a more beautiful place!
I’m a life-long gardener who still to this day gets giddy at the thought of a trip to one of the local nurseries. Yes, I actually studied landscape and environmental horticulture and the practical experience I have garnered through the years has served me well. Childhood memories of chicken manure “tea” still float through my olfactory senses to this day. I have always been an organic gardener and always will be. From the Earth … To the Earth. I was born and raised in rural, bucolic Litchfield County, Connecticut and now joyfully live a few blocks from the ocean in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.
carmen gatlin says
i love pointsetas , all plants really i raise a poinsettia that bloom in the summer my friends were amazes they raise them in Puerto rico. they have trees also love your video happy new year
Nell Foster says
Hi Carmen – I love them too. My neighbor in Santa Barbara had a small poinsettia tree (10′ tall) in her front yard. It didn’t have a lot of foliage but started turning red in Nov. By Christmas it was covered in red. Happy holidays! Nell
Barbara Busch says
I have a very old poinsettia growing outside my house in Santa Barbara. How far down should it be pruned and when? The red bracts are over the roof already & it’s only late Nov. It’s not nearly as pretty as when we first moved here 3 years ago.
Nell Foster says
Hi Barbara – Poinsettias get leggy, it’s their nature. My neighbors in Santa Barbara had a 9′ poinsettia in their front yard. They used to ct it back to 12″ above the ground after the leaves & red bracts fell off. In Feb. or March, I recall. Nell