Our series “The Language of Flowers” explores everything from fresh flower care tips to flower symbolism and meaning. Here, we provide guidance on poinsettia care for your holiday plant.
Previously known as the “Christmas Star” and “Mexican Flameleaf,” this striking bloom caught the attention of Joel Robert Poinsett, an American physician, and diplomat on a trip as America’s first ambassador to Mexico. In Mexico, the plant is called “le flor de Nochebuona.” Poinsett introduced the plant to the United States, hence its common English name, “Poinsettia.”
Poinsettia care year-round
When caring for a poinsettia plant, the most important considerations are temperature, light, and watering. Poinsettias are light-loving plants. They prefer southeasterly, easterly, or western window exposure. Being tropical, they thrive in temperatures of 65-70 degrees. At night, they can be moved to a cooler location, but never below 60 degrees. In northern climates, keep plants away from drafts and cold windows.
“Poinsettia care starts when you make the purchase,” says Renato Cruz Sogueco, Vice President Education at Floriology, a subsidiary of 1800Flowers that provides online and in-person flower arranging classes. “Ironically, for a plant beloved during the cool holiday season, Poinsettias dislike chilly weather!”
Sogueco advises to avoid buying the poinsettia placed right at the doorway or sold outdoors but choose the plants inside the shop, insulated within other poinsettias, and look for small, tightly clustered yellow buds in the center. “Inspect the foliage to confirm none are bent or are damaged, which may be a sign they were exposed to cold during delivery,” he says.
The soil of your plant should be checked daily so it is lightly moist but never soggy or overdry. Both dryness and over-watering can cause leaves to droop or fall. A half-hour after watering, check to see that your plant is not sitting in water. If there is excessive water at the bottom, drain it off; this prevents root damage.
The bright colorful leaves of a poinsettia are often mistaken for the flowers of the plant, but the actual flowers are the yellow or green that grows in the center of the colored leaf clusters.
The myth that poinsettias are toxic to pets is just that, a myth. If eaten, the plant may cause irritation to a pet’s mouth or digestive system, but there has never been a recorded report of pet fatality.
Despite being a classical Christmas flower, poinsettias can be updated when planted in an on-point container, created into a holiday wreath, and white poinsettias bring in a tasteful, simple design to a holiday vignette.
Poinsettia care after Christmas
While poinsettias are the most common flower associated with Christmas, they have wintry appeal and are a colorful addition to your plant collection. Keep in mind that these tropical plants must have attention to poinsettia care.
Pro tip: Sogueco notes that if you felt frost on your trip over to purchase your poinsettia, cover the plant when you load it into the car. Even short exposure to cold could harm the plant.
“Believe it, with this type of love and attention, you’ll be enjoying the poinsettia’s vibrant-colored leaves for weeks beyond the holiday,” says Sogueco.