How to Take Care of Poinsettias, According to a Seasoned Gardener

Hadley Mendelsohn
·3-min read

From House Beautiful

Native to Mexico and Guatemala, poinsettias are a holiday season staple and those bright colors are actually thanks to the shortening days and chillier winter months (a bright little silver lining to daylight savings!). Given their seasonality and that famous glossy red and green color combo, poinsettias are ideal for any Christmas floral arrangement. But did you know they also grow white, pink, yellow, blue and marbled bracts? Whether you want to nurture one all year long or you need to get your plant in great shape for the holidays ahead, you're in the right place. We tapped Kelly Brown, cofounder of deVINE Plantery, for all her poinsettia care expertise. First, learn more about the basics of this plant and then learn how to best care for poinsettias ahead.

Photo credit: Pieter Estersohn - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pieter Estersohn - Getty Images

A Little Background

Though commonly referred to as flowers, poinsettias are actually plants, or, more specifically, small trees. However, they are commonly misperceived as flower petals, thanks to their many colors. Why does that matter? Well, understanding the difference can help you take better care of poinsettias. Flowers are reproductive blossoms found within plants, and while plants can consist of roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits, they don't always have all. So in the case of a poinsettia plant, those pops of colors are actually leaves. And taking care of them properly will yield and maintain lively, colorful leaves.

And now, all the details below on the optimal conditions for poinsettias...

Ideal Temps and Humidity Levels

Photo credit: Vesna Armstrong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Vesna Armstrong - Getty Images

“We recommend keeping them in indoor temperatures between 65 to 70 °F, making sure not to expose them to temperatures below 55 °F," Brown suggests. Since those are the temperatures that we humans prefer indoors, too, it shouldn't be too difficult to accommodate the poinsettias. "They prefer moist but not wet/damp soil as that can cause root rot," she adds...which brings us to the watering dos and don'ts:

Watering Dos and Don'ts

Photo credit: Marje - Getty Images
Photo credit: Marje - Getty Images

“Give your poinsettia plants a nice watering every week," Brown tells us. Sometimes you may need to water them a little more frequently than that, but the basic rule of thumb is to do so as soon as you notice the soil getting dry. “When watering, be sure to water until it drains out of the bottom of the pot, and then pour out that excess water from the saucer.” When in doubt, it’s better to be on the drier side (sort of like with orchids).

Exposure Best Practices

Photo credit: Siri Stafford - Getty Images
Photo credit: Siri Stafford - Getty Images

And now for a little sun. Brown says to "place your poinsettias by a nice spot by a window or in a bright space," but not right under a ray of glaring sunlight. "Poinsettias need bright indirect sunlight for approximately six hours a day. But be sure to not let them sit in direct sunlight," she clarifies. This is because those super pigmented leaves get their deep hues from a balance of sunshine and then dark periods (kind of like us, we need vitamin D but we also need sleep!). So, it's really pretty simple—poinsettias are a relatively low maintenance plant offerings a festive, vibrant character.

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