Caring for a poinsettia

How to Grow Poinsettias So They’ll Re-Bloom Next Christmas

Start by choosing a shallow container that will show off the colorful blooms, and fill it with fresh water. Clip a few flowers off different poinsettia plants, and trim and sear their stems. Include sprigs of greenery (which you can steal from your Christmas tree) to add rustic detail. This display looks especially stunning from above, so we suggest setting it out on a coffee table. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

We love the bright blooms of poinsettias. Every winter, they add festive cheer to holiday decorating inside and out. If there’s an empty space on the porch, on the doorsteps, or anywhere in between, you can be sure that we’re going to fill it with a poinsettia pot. We’ve been thinking, though—why buy new plants every year? Why not tend our poinsettias so that they’ll bloom again next year? Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to festive, re-blooming bliss.

As you tend the poinsettia throughout the year, you’ll notice that the care breaks down into two general areas—basic care from winter to summer and increasingly more time-intensive care during the fall months.

Basic Care (January-September)

Houseplant Status
After Christmas, keep your poinsettia indoors and in a spot where it receives bright light, watering it regularly in a pot with good drainage to keep the soil moist.

Spring Pruning
When spring arrives, prune the flowering stems back 4 to 6 inches. This should promote new growth. In May, repot the poinsettia into a larger vessel, and place the plant in a sunny window. Water it when the soil becomes dry.

Outdoor Spell
When June arrives and the possibility of frost is past, it’s time to move the poinsettia outside. Place it in a shady spot and both water and fertilize it regularly.

Indoor Move
When evening temperatures begin to drop in August or September, move the plant indoors and keep the soil moist.

Intensive Care (September-December)

Evening Dark
This is the time-consuming part. In fall, poinsettias require short days of light and long nights (we’re talking 12 to 14 hours) of total darkness. Without these lengths of evening darkness, poinsettias will not flower. From September to December, place your poinsettia pot in a completely dark location, or cover it completely and opaquely, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. every evening, ensuring that it is not disturbed by even the smallest gleam of light during that time. Each morning, you’ll need to place it in a sunny spot for necessary light during the day. (You may want to set a twice-daily alert to remind yourself to move the plant both morning and evening.)

Time intensive? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. After this year of careful tending and one season of long, dark nights, your poinsettia should bloom again—just in time for the holidays.

WATCH: Join The Grumpy Gardener As He Shops For The Perfect Christmas Tree

Will you keep your poinsettias all year long, or will you buy new ones when the holiday season arrives again? Let us know your tips and tricks for getting these pretty plants to bloom year after year.

Poinsettia Facts

10 Interesting Facts about Poinsettias

  • No flower says Christmas like the beautiful poinsettia. Learn a few facts about this traditional Christmas plant.
  • Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.
  • Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. Probably best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. You might want to keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
  • The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).
  • Poinsettias have also been called the lobster flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color.
  • Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico.
  • In Mexico the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that will grow 10-15 feet tall.
  • There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias come in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.
  • The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of all Poinsettias purchased in the United States and does about 50% of the world-wide sales of Poinsettias.
  • December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.

What’s in a Name?

  • Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.
  • In Nahuatl , the language of the Aztecs, the Poinsettia was called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl, for residue, and xochitl, for flower), meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil.”
  • Today the plant is known in Mexico and Guatemala as “”La Flor de la Nochebuena” (Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve).
  • In Chile and Peru, the Poinsettia is called the “Crown of the Andes”.
  • In Spain the Poinsettia has a different holiday attribution. It is known there as “Flor de Pascua”, meaning “Easter flower”.
  • Poinsettias have also been called the lobster flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color.
  • Poinsettias received their name in the United States in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant into the country in 1828. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. He sent cuttings of the plant he had discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. The word Poinsettia is traditionally capitalized because it is named after a person.

Anatomy of a Poinsettia

  • The showy colored parts of Poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
  • Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves.
  • Despite rumors to the contrary, Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than a pound-and-a-quarter of Poinsettia leaves (500 to 600 leaves) to have any side effects. The most common side effects that have been reported from Poinsettia ingestions are upset stomach and vomiting. The leaves are reportedly not very tasty, so it’s highly unlikely that kids or even pets would be able to eat that many! But be aware that the leaves can still be a choking hazard for children and pets.
  • In nature, Poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that were once considered weeds.
  • Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant. They will grow outdoors in temperate coastal climates, such as Southern California beach communities. In the ground, they can reach 10 feet tall.
  • The colors of the bracts are created through “photoperiodism”, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. On the other hand, once Poinsettias finish that process, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.

Great Moments in Poinsettia History

  • Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They are found in the wild in deciduous tropical forest at moderate elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala. They are also found in the interior of Mexico in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Gurerro and Oxaca.
  • December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
  • In Mexico, the Poinsettia is displayed in celebration of the “Dia de la Virgen”, which is also coincidentally, December 12th.
  • The Aztecs used the Poinsettia bracts to make a reddish purple dye for fabrics, and used the sap medicinally to control fevers.
  • Montezuma, the last of the Aztec Kings, had Poinsettias delivered to him by caravan to what is now Mexico City, because Poinsettias could not be grown in the high altitude.
  • Paul Ecke Jr. is considered the father of the Poinsettia industry due to his discovery of a technique which caused seedlings to branch. This technique allowed the Poinsettia industry to flourish. The Paul Ecke Ranch in California grows over 70% of all Poinsettias purchased in the United States and about 50% of the world-wide sales of Poinsettias. As of August 2012, the Ecke Ranch, which was family-owned and operated for nearly 100 years, announced that it had been acquired by the Dutch-based Agribio Group.
  • The Ecke family had a secret technique that caused every seedling to branch, resulting in a fuller plant. In 1991, a university graduate student published an article that described a method for causing Poinsettias to branch. With the secret out and available to everyone, competition flourished, especially from Europe, resulting in a decrease of Ecke’s share of the market.
  • An NCAA college football bowl game in San Diego is named the Poinsettia Bowl. The first bowl was played in December of 1952 and was created as a military services championship game, with the Western and Eastern military services champions competing against each other.

Poinsettias By the Numbers

  • There are over 100 varieties of Poinsettias available. Though once only available in red, there are now Poinsettias in pink, white, yellow, purple, salmon, and multi-colors. They have names like ‘Premium Picasso’, ‘Monet Twilight’, ‘Shimmer’, and ‘Surprise’.
  • The red Poinsettia still dominates over other color options. ‘Prestige Red’–one of many poinsettias patented by Ecke–ranks among the best-selling hybrids.
  • Poinsettias contribute over $250 million to the U.S. economy at the retail level.
  • California is the top U.S. Poinsettia-producing state.
  • Poinsettias are the best selling potted plant in the United States and Canada.
  • Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plant. Most Poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to that holiday, representing some $60 million worth.
  • It is estimated that women account for 80% of Poinsettia sales.
  • The most common question people have about Poinsettias is how to get them to rebloom in successive years.

Updated by Erica D. Seltzer and MaryAnne Spinner, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners

A List Of Plants And Flowers For Christmas

The Christmas holiday is a time for beauty and good cheer and nothing helps bring beauty and good cheer like beautiful flowers for Christmas. There are a few standard Christmas plants and flowers that you may like for your home this holiday.

Care of Christmas Plants

Surprisingly, many holiday plants are tropical plants. This means that the care of these Christmas plants is more like caring for a houseplant than a plant meant for the cold and snow. All of the Christmas plant types listed below should be treated as tender plants and should not be left where cold drafts could blow on them.

Christmas Plants and Flowers

Poinsettia – Perhaps the most recognizable flower for Christmas is the poinsettia. Originally sold with bright red and green leaves (the “flowers” are actually leaves on the plant), poinsettias today are sold in a wide variety of colors and patterns. They naturally grow in a range of colors from white to pink to red with solid or speckled leaves, but sellers now dye or paint them many other colors and may even add sparkles.

Amaryllis – Amaryllis is another popular holiday plant. Tall and graceful, this holiday flower bulb can make a statement as a centerpiece on the table and its trumpet like huge flowers look like they are harking the Christmas holidays. Typically, the red varieties of amaryllis are sold for the holidays, but they come in colors ranging from red to white to pink to orange and petals that are solid, striped or speckled in all of these colors.

Christmas Cactus – The Christmas cactus is so named because it is thought to naturally bloom at Christmas time. If you own this holiday plant for many years, you will actually find it prefers to bloom closer to Thanksgiving. Regardless, these lovely cacti have lush flowers that hang down like lovely Christmas ornaments from the ends of the leaves of the plant.

Rosemary – While the rosemary plant is a lesser known holiday plant, it is making a comeback in stores as being sold as a holiday plant. A few centuries ago, rosemary was part of the Nativity story in that Baby Jesus’ clothes were dried on a rosemary bush. Christians then believed that smelling rosemary at Christmas brought good luck. Today, rosemary is sold as a Christmas plant pruned in the form of a Christmas tree.

Holly – Holly is not typically sold as a live plant at Christmas, but the bright red berries of female holly bushes against its dark green pointed leaves are a popular decoration at Christmas. Surprisingly, while holly is a traditional Christmas plant, its origins date back to Druids, who thought the plant represented everlasting life. Christians adopted the plant as a symbol of Jesus’ promise of everlasting life.

Mistletoe – Another holiday plant used as décor more than a live plant, this common Christmas decoration also dates back to the druids. But, unlike holly, the Christian church did not adopt it as a tradition, but rather frowned on it. Despite being forbidden as a decoration at one point in time in the Christian church, this holiday plant is still commonly seen. Originally a symbol of fertility, now it is simply a sneaky way for boys to get kisses from girls.

Christmas Tree – No list of Christmas plants would be complete without mentioning the centerpiece of any Christmas celebrating house. The Christmas tree can be either cut or live and common Christmas tree varieties are:

  • Douglas fir
  • Balsam fir
  • Fraser fir
  • Scotch pine
  • White pine
  • White spruce
  • Norway spruce
  • Blue spruce

How to Take Care of Your Christmas Poinsettias

What is Christmas decor without a lush bouquet of poinsettias? These flowers, in a vibrant red, snowy white or even a pleasant pink hue have become synonymous with a house well-decorated for the holidays. Though you can pick these flowers up at plenty of stores or even have them delivered right to your door, they may not come with instructions that let you know how to properly care for them. If you want to keep your poinsettias alive and vibrant as long as possible, follow these instructions:

Tips for Choosing Your Poinsettia
When picking out your poinsettia, look for leaves that are dark green, without any wilted blooms. If a plant has already begun wilting, chances are, it’ll take a lot of work to make it healthy again. You’ll also want to opt for a plant with vibrant flowers with little discoloration on the ends. A good indication of a healthy plant is lush leaves and flowers on all sides.

Don’t Stress About Yellow Poinsettia Leaves
When you first get a poinsettia plant, you may notice that a few of the leaves begin to turn yellow and fall off. Don’t get too worried unless the entire plant is changing color or shriveling. You plant is adjusting to the environment in your home. In many cases, people get alarmed by the color change and begin over or underwatering it, causing the whole plant to die. Don’t change your plant maintenance and your poinsettia will be OK. Chances are, just a few leaves will fall and the rest of the plant will begin to thrive.

Water Your Poinsettia Correctly
A poinsettia doesn’t take a whole lot of maintenance to be happy. However, it’s pretty picky about the amount of water it receives. Keep the soil evenly moist by thoroughly watering it and checking the soil regularly to ensure it’s not still moist when you water it again. If your poinsettia is potted in a planter with a drainage hole – it should be – it’s important to empty the tray beneath it once the plant has drained. It’s not good for the plant to sit in that stagnant water. If you’re displaying the plant in the foil-wrapped pot that it came in, simply poke a few holes in the bottom and place the pot in a tray so it can drain. Don’t fertilize the plant while there are still flowers blooming. If you plan to keep the plant in hopes of it blossoming again next year, you can fertilize it once all of the petals have dropped.

Place Your Poinsettia in the Right Spot
While a poinsettia is pretty resilient, there are places that are better for the plant than others. For example, though the poinsettia may do alright on your desk at work, it’ll thrive much better near a window that lets in bright, but indirect light. It’s also important to put them in an area that doesn’t shift much in temperature. For example, a cold windowsill, a warm radiator or heat vent can all damage the leaves and cause them to fall off. Though these plants are at their peak in the wintertime, they’re very sensitive to cold air. On the trek from the store to your home, make sure the plant is as covered as possible, guarding it from the winter air. This is why these plants are all wrapped up when they’re delivered to you.

How the Poinsettia Became the Official Plant of Christmas

The plant we all recognize today as the Poinsettia has a long, foreign and interesting history. Though many Christmas plants and flowers are associated with the American Christmas holiday, the beloved Poinsettia has some deep historical roots that might surprise you.

That lovely plant you place in your home every December was once used as a fever cure! A Central America native, the plant flourished in areas of Southern Mexico long before Christianity came to the Western Hemisphere. The ancient Aztecs found it blooming in the tropical highlands during the very short days of winter and named it “Cuetlaxochitl.” Not decorative at the time, the Aztecs used the plant for practical purposes, as they did with many elements of nature. They extracted purple dye from it for use in cosmetics, and its milky white sap (latex) was used to treat fevers.

This plant would’ve remained a regional plant were it not for Joel Roberts Poinsett. The son of a French physician, Poinsett was appointed as the first US Ambassador to Mexico by President Madison. Poinsett had graduated from medical school, but was a dedicated (almost obsessive) botany-lover. (Mr. Poinsett founded the institution known today as the revered Smithsonian). Poinsett maintained greenhouses on his Greenville, S.C. plantations. While visiting Mexico in 1828, he became enchanted by these brilliant red blooms; those he saw were of the “Cuetlaxochitl.” He immediately sent some plants home and began propagating and sending them to friends and botanical gardens. Poinsett’s good friend (and fellow botanist), Robert Buist, sold the plant as “Euphorbia pulcherrima” (which means beautiful) after noticing not only how vibrant and stunning the plant’s leaves and colors were, but he was befuddled by its power: the plant actually pushed its way through the cracks of his greenhouse floor! The Poinsettia name became the accepted name in English speaking countries as it was Poinsett who first saw and brought the plant to our country, and then cultivated it into smaller sizes (it grows as a tree in Mexico).

Today, the Christmas Poinsettia is known as such because it can be found naturally blooming/growing only for a short period of time around Christmas in Mexico. Thus, the “Christmas Poinsettia “was born; production and distribution has consistently grown since it was first discovered in the 1800’s. The Poinsettia is now one of the most important floricultural crops in the country, according to many professional botanists and The American Botanical Council. Total U.S. Poinsettia production was valued at $325 million in 1997*; and December 12th is now celebrated as National Poinsettia Day, marking the date of Poinsett’s death, celebrating his life and his discovery, and noting his unfathomable enjoyment of the lush plants. And, just as Poinsett would have it; the Poinsettia, whether white, red or pink, remains one of the most frequently sold and delivered Christmas Christmas decorations in America during the holiday season.

* Statistics according to Associated Content Make this holiday season bright and beautiful with holiday themed flowers, plants and Christmas decorations from ProFlowers. They make great gifts for friends and family, and a lovely addition to your own home decor.

These shrubs flower throughout winter and into spring. What we think of as large, showy, red and white flower petals are not petals at all. They are actually leafy bracts. Like a vast majority of Euphorbia species, E. pulcherrima produces a special type of inflorescence called a cyathium. The flowers themselves are small, yellow, and not much to look at with the naked eye. However, take a hand lens to them and you will reveal rather intriguing little structures. What the flowers lack in showy display is made up for by the colorful bracts, which serve similar functions as petals in that their stunning colors are there to attract potential pollinators.

Those bracts also caught the attention of horticulturists. Because of their beauty, E. pulcherrima is one of the most widely cultivated plants in human history. As many a poinsettia owner has come to realize, the bracts do not stay colored up all year. In fact, the whole function of these bracts is to save energy on flower production by coloring up leaves that are already in place. If they don’t have to produce pigments, they won’t and for much of the year, the bracts are largely green. The key to the color change lies in Earth’s axial tilt.

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