Growing poinsettias from seed

Poinsettia Seed Pods: How And When To Plant Poinsettia Seeds

Growing poinsettia from seeds is not a gardening adventure most people even consider. Poinsettias are almost always found around Christmas time as fully grown potted plants to be given as gifts. Poinsettias are plants just like any other, though, and they can be grown from seed. Keep reading to learn about collecting poinsettia seed and growing poinsettia from seeds.

Poinsettia Seed Pods

The bright red “flower” of a poinsettia is not really a flower at all – it’s made of up special leaves called bracts that have evolved to look like flower petals. The real flower consists of the small yellow parts in the center of the bracts. This is where the pollen is produced and where your poinsettia seed pods will develop.

Poinsettias have both

male and female parts and can either self-pollinate or cross pollinate with other poinsettias. If your poinsettias are outside, the might be pollinated naturally by insects. Since they bloom in the winter, however, you’re probably keeping them as houseplants and will have to pollinate them yourself.

With a cotton swab, gently brush against every flower, making sure to pick up some pollen each time. After a while, you should start seeing poinsettia seed pods – big bulbous green things growing up on stalks out of the flowers.

When the plant starts to fade, pick the poinsettia seed pods and store them in a paper bag in a dry place. After the pods are brown and dry, collecting poinsettia seeds should be as easy as popping the pods open inside the bag.

Growing Poinsettia from Seeds

So what do poinsettia seeds look like and when to plant poinsettia seeds? The poinsettia seeds you’ll find inside the pods are small and dark. In order to germinate, they first need to spend about three months in a cool place, like your refrigerator, a process called cold stratification.

Then you can plant them under 1 ½ inches of soil, but it may take a few weeks for them to sprout. Just keep the soil warm and moist until they do. Care for your seedlings the same as you would any other. Once mature, you will have yourself a poinsettia plant for gift giving during the holidays.

Holly and Poinsettias: Don’t Leave Your Greenhouse Out of Christmas

Holiday staples poinsettias and holly offer insights into growing decorative plants in your greenhouse—and, hey, it’s Christmastime; these beauties are in high demand.

The lasting, vibrant colors of poinsettias and hollies recommend themselves as easy winter decorations and have done so for centuries. Guatemalan and Mexican peoples decked their halls with poinsettias long before Franciscan missionaries introduced them to the idea of Christmas, and the scattered tribes of pre-medieval Europe hung holly over doorframes as part of religious winter celebrations. Americans, with roots in both hemispheres, cheerily scatter both around their homes each December.

Poinsettias’ Patenting Problem

Before these Christmas classics appear in nurseries, growers have to double-check their commercial viability. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, poinsettia sales generate about $250 million across the country, so the market is obviously there. However, that this information comes from the USPTO points out one of the problems growers run into right at the start of their poinsettia projects: Many, many poinsettia varieties are patented and can’t be sold commercially.

The same is true of many varieties of holly. Check tags for “PP” (plant patent) or “PPAF” (plant patent applied for) before purchasing. The rule applies to any plant you want to propagate, especially roses. To propagate, you need a license from the patent holder.

Poinsettias: You’ve Gotta Know How to Grow ‘Em

If you’re growing poinsettias from seed, plant them in the early summer in potting soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. The plants can remain outdoors or in a greenhouse throughout the summer, getting full light, but don’t keep them in temperatures below 50 degrees. You should have transplantable poinsettia shrubs by October.

Many planters find it easier to begin with seedling plugs, which are available online and can be planted later in the season so you can save your gardening space for other plants. If using plugs, follow the same process but plant them in August.

Beginning in October, poinsettias need 12 to 14 hours of total darkness everyday to bring out the color in their leaves. You can cover them, set up shades, or move them to another location. This alternating light and darkness is the only way to produce poinsettias with colors other than green. Using the ZipGrow Farm Wall can simplify the process because you can easily and safely cover the plants with a tarp and avoid blocking the light other plants in your greenhouse will desperately need during short autumn and winter days.

How Your Holly Can Wear the Crown

Hollies are trees, and like many trees, they take a couple years to grow from a seed to a plant you can get in the soil. You can propagate hollies from cuttings, but again: years. Best to purchase seedlings at least 6 inches tall.

When you buy holly, remember that you typically need female (like most people named Holly) and male (like Buddy) varieties to produce berries. Don’t assume the names of the varieties are a giveaway, either: The Guardian points out that “Golden Queen” holly trees are actually male. If you want berries, you need both. The exception is Chinese holly, which doesn’t require male pollination.

Hollies thrive with well-drained yet moist soil, so a hydroponic system with high void space—one that won’t completely drench roots yet maintains moisture—would be a great way to keep plants healthy before holiday sales. Keep them in the sunlight or in lightly shaded spots, and use soil or plant food with some acidity to it.

You could easily experiment with ways to achieve better pollination by using different varieties and separating the hollies by rows, though this might take up a lot of space. Using vertical yet well-spaced systems, such as ZipGrow Towers, can alleviate that problem.

Merry and Bright Plant Displays

If you decide to sell poinsettias or holly—or any other decoratives, for that matter—remember that customers are selecting their plants based on visual impact. Be careful to keep your decoratives growing in an attractive way. Don’t just have a section for roses here, some creeping ivy off by the wall, and some tables for poinsettias over in the corner; this neither makes your products look attractive nor helps customers understand how they can use the plants in their homes and yards. The key is to display your plants.

At major retailers, decorative plants now receive decorations of their own. Holly plants with fake berries attached line shelves. Poinsettias sparkle with glitter. While these may border on sacrilege to the growing purist, you can bedazzle your wares without compromising your integrity; customers want to discover the different ways to use the goods they’re thinking about buying. Just be sure to add glamour without hiding the natural beauty of your plants. Consider adding Christmas lights to your displays or making some sample wreaths. Show off the power of your decoratives.

And to All a Nochebuena

With January upon us, holly and poinsettia sales are winding down for the year. Check online retailers for season-end clearance sales on these plants to get started for next year.

A final thought: In Mexico and Guatemala, poinsettias are called la flor de Nochebuena, or the flower of the Good Night (Christmas Eve). We hope yours is muy buena. Happy holidays!

Don’t have a greenhouse yet? What better time to start planning than the New Year?

Check out the Greenhouse Shopping List to discover what you’ll need.

The Poinsettia and its Relatives

The Holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family, exchange gifts, enjoy a good meal together and in many cases admire the beauty of the classic holiday plant the poinsettia. Did you know that of all of the different kinds of potted plants that are sold in this country that the poinsettia is number 1? I find that pretty interesting considering it is really only for sale for a few weeks out of the year, leading up to Christmas. And, I think you can guess how much any leftover plants on the florists’ or big box’s store shelves are worth the week after Christmas. Not much more than colorful compost material, which is where I think most poinsettias should end up by the first of March or so. I too often see half-dead, scraggily plants still surviving in someone’s office or on display in their homes. Often the owners of these plants are quite proud of the fact that their poinsettia is still alive. They then usually ask me what to do with it when it is done blooming. I tell them to toss it in the compost pile but that is usually not the answer they were looking for.

You might gather that poinsettias are not my favorite plants. While it is true that the typical red poinsettia is not my favorite, I do enjoy some of the other cultivars of poinsettias that have bracts ranging in color from creamy white or yellow to pinks and lavender to speckled and striped and more. Plant breeders went to a lot of trouble to develop those good old red poinsettias that could be reliably grown and brought into bloom for Christmas. The ancestors of the modern poinsettia were much more challenging to grow and maintain in the home. The purchaser was lucky if they made it to New Year’s Eve. They are still a challenging plant to grow well. The problem now is that you can forget to water them for a week or more, or let them sit in water in a saucer and see most of the leave turn brown and fall off but they will often still survive. Getting them to rebloom, and to do it in time for Christmas is not easy for the typical home gardener. (I will provide more information on that next week.) So I feel that the best thing to do is enjoy it for a few weeks, then get rid of it and move on to a fresh new plant and just buy a new poinsettia next December.

Despite the fact that poinsettias are not my favorite plant, some relatives of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are excellent additions as houseplants on your windowsill while some of the hardier ones make great perennials too. They all share some common characteristics like a milky sap in the stems and leaves, and strange looking flowers called cyathia. The red color on poinsettias comes from colored leaves, called bracts, which change color when the day lengths get short in the fall of the year. The true flowers are little round structures in the center of the bracts. They look similar in some of the other plants that I will describe later.

Poinsettias are the quintessential Christmas plant. The best-selling variety of this plant comes in shades of red and green, and as the plant is at its most vibrant over winter, it seems that it was created especially for the festive season.

One common name for the poinsettia is ‘Christmas flower,’ while in Italy, it is known as ‘Stella di Natale’, and in Germany, it is called the ‘Weihnachtsstern’; both of these translate in English to ‘Christmas star’.

While the poinsettia is traditionally used as a houseplant or centerpiece over the winter months, it can actually be grown all year round, blooming again the following winter. If you want your poinsettia to last for more than just the festive season, you’ll need to know a few things about the plant to help increase your chances of success at keeping it alive. Once you understand the basic needs of the plant, it isn’t too hard to keep it happy and thriving.

Poinsettias Overview

Quick Facts

Origin Mexico
Scientific Name Euphorbia pulcherrima
Family Euphorbiaceae
Type Perennial shrub
Common Names Poinsettia, Christmas flower
Height Up to 16 feet in native habitat, or up to 2 feet as a houseplant
Toxicity Mildly toxic
Light Bright, indirect light
Watering Water when dry, do not soak
Pests Aphids and whiteflies

Choosing a Poinsettia

One of the best things you can do to ensure you have a healthy poinsettia that remains colorful all winter long is to make a good decision about the poinsettia you purchase. Poinsettias are finicky about their care, and if the plant has been subjected to less than ideal conditions while it sat in a store, then you will probably find it wilts soon after you get it home.

There are many houseplants that can be rescued from poor conditions in a store and will spring back to life once you bring them home and give them the care they need. This is not the case with poinsettias, so don’t be tempted to buy a sad-looking poinsettia; they rarely ever recover!

To make sure you get a high-quality plant, there are a few things you can look for. First, check the condition of the flowers.

Contrary to popular belief, the red ‘petals’ of the plant are not the flowers; they are actually modified leaves known as bracts. Instead, the flowers are at the center of the leaf bracts and look like tiny yellow berries, usually in a star formation. When buying a poinsettia, you want these tiny flowers to look firm, and they shouldn’t yet have any pollen on them. If the flowers look loose and in poor condition, it’s usually a sign that the plant hasn’t been well cared for.

Another thing you can do is check the soil. It should be neither dry nor soggy to the touch. Also, check the surroundings of where the poinsettia is being kept. Many grocery stores will place them near the front of the store to catch the customer’s eye as they enter, but this is a bad place to keep a poinsettia. These plants are very sensitive to draughts or sudden changes in temperature, so they could well have been damaged by being kept near an entryway with continually opening and closing doors.

Even if a poinsettia looks healthy, it could have sustained damage that will cause it to lose its leaves once it gets home, so try to seek out a reputable seller. You should also take care when transporting your poinsettia home. Wrap it up in paper or plastic to protect it from the cold, and don’t keep it in a cold car any longer than necessary.

Varieties

Poinsettias are known for their winter blooms and bright red coloring, which is synonymous with the festive season, and though these are the most common types of poinsettias, there are over 150 varieties to choose from including those with pink or white bracts.

Varieties of poinsettia include the following.

Classic Red

Classic Red

This is the poinsettia most people are familiar with. It features solid vibrant red leaf bracts at the top of the plant, with deep green leaves on the lower half of the plant. Its flowers are green-yellow.

Euphorbia Christmas Beauty Marble

Euphorbia Christmas Beauty Marble

The leaf bracts of this plant are striking in highly pigmented pink with a marbled pattern in luscious cream.

Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Freedom Jingle Bells’

Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Freedom Jingle Bells’ on the left – Credit to [email protected]

This unusual poinsettia is a real show stopper. It has glossy green leaves, complemented by ‘petals’ in a two-tone pattern with bright red and buttery yellow. It has an incredibly festive look that makes an excellent Christmas centerpiece.

Polly’s Pink

Polly’s Pink – credit to gardeninginaminute

This poinsettia has green leaves and deep pink leaf bracts. This plant is a great way to bring pretty, vibrant colors to a wintery room.

Winter Rose Dark Red

Winter Rose Dark Red

This plant has burgundy leaves, which look incredibly dramatic next to its lower green leaves. It is an especially festive-looking poinsettia and would be perfect for a Christmas centerpiece.

Princettia Max White

This delicate-looking plant has creamy white bracts that have baby pink veins running through them, giving it a pretty and elegant look.

Euphorbia Envy

This poinsettia has vivid lime green ‘petals,’ which grow in an upward direction to make an interesting-looking plant. It seems to be a little sturdier than some other poinsettias and is less likely to succumb to an early death than more traditional varieties. It typically lasts longer than red-leafed poinsettias.

Polar Bear

As you might expect from the name of this variety, its leaves are pure white. Unlike most poinsettias, it only has one leaf color, so if you are a fan of consistent-looking plants, then this would be a good choice. It also works well alongside more traditional poinsettias, providing a nice contrast.

Strawberries and Cream

This poinsettia has pale pink leaves that have darker pink veins running through them. If your Christmas color scheme is less traditional, and you are moving away from all things red, this is a pretty plant to give a festive vibe with a modern edge. The lower leaves of this plant are medium green, which contrasts nicely against the soft pink shades above.

Caring for Your Poinsettia

Watering

Poinsettias like to have their soil kept consistently slightly moist. They should not be allowed to dry out, and they should also not be kept in soggy soil. Many growers recommend a practice that is discouraged for most houseplants, and this is to give the poinsettia a small sip of water every day or every few days, depending on the condition of its soil.

Giving the plant frequent light waterings rather than infrequent heavy waterings will help to ensure a more even level of moisture throughout the soil, and it will also prevent the plant’s soil from getting waterlogged, which would result in root rot and death of the plant.

Poinsettias kept in large pots will not need to be watered as frequently as those in small pots, which have a tendency to dry out more quickly.

Light

These plants are accustomed to life in Central America, where they enjoy a lot of sun, so you need to recreate this environment in your home to allow the plant to thrive. A windowsill is usually a good spot for a poinsettia, though make sure it is not allowed to come into contact with the window pane itself, as these can get very cold during the winter months.

If your windows are not well insulated, you may be better off positioning the plant on a well-lit table in your living room. It will enjoy being in the brightest spot your home can offer, providing it is warm enough.

These plants can be quite particular about where they are kept, so if you feel like your poinsettia isn’t thriving in its current position, then don’t be shy about moving it and trying out a different spot until you find one your plant is happy with.

Temperature

Poinsettias should be kept at a constant temperature of between 65 and 75 °F during the winter months to give them the best chance of staying in bloom. As typical room temperature usually sits at around 70 °F, any living space in your home should be a comfortable temperature for the plant.

The exception to this is anywhere that the plant could be subject to cold drafts. Never place it in an entryway or near a window that gets opened. Also, take care if you position the plant on a windowsill, because if the window panes get cold and the plant comes into contact with the window, then it will likely sustain some damage.

Some people keep their poinsettias on a window sill but move them to a table or somewhere more central in a room each night. This is because if the window gets cold, then the plant could get too cold overnight, especially if it is hidden behind a drawn curtain and doesn’t benefit from heating in the home. The lowest temperature the plant should be subjected to overnight is 60 °F. Any lower than this, and you will likely notice some leaves shriveling and dropping.

Humidity

As a native of the tropics, the poinsettia thrives in humid conditions. Humidity in homes is typically very low in the winter, as home heating systems have a tendency to dry out the air. This can be easily remedied to keep your poinsettia happy, and you have a few options you can choose from to achieve increased humidity.

One option is to simply mist the plants with a water spray every day. Another option is to sit the plant on a pebble tray and fill over the pebbles with water. As the water evaporates, the humidity around the plant is increased.

You could also do this without the use of a tray if your plant is housed in a larger plant pot for aesthetic purposes. Set some pebbles at the bottom of the exterior pot and cover with water before sitting the poinsettias own pot on top of them.

For both a pebble tray or pebbles in a pot, always ensure that the water level is lower than the tallest pebble. This will prevent any water from being absorbed by the plant’s soil through its drainage holes, as this could result in soggy roots and a sickly plant. Another option is to use an electric humidifier to increase humidity in your entire room or home.

Propagation

Poinsettias can be propagated from seeds or stem cuttings. To harvest seeds from your poinsettia, take them from your parent’s plant as soon as the seeds start to turn brown. Dry them out by placing them in a paper bag and setting them aside. When the seeds have burst out of their pods, then they are ready to be planted.

Poinsettia seeds are easy to sow; they can simply be placed on moist soil and covered with a light layer of more soil. Set them in a warm shaded spot, maintain moist soil, and wait for germination to take place. Though poinsettia seeds take little effort to propagate, they may not produce a plant the same as the parent plant. The only way to ensure this is with stem cuttings.

To propagate with a stem cutting, you will need to take a cutting from the plant of between 3 and 4 inches in late spring or summer. To give yourself the best chances of success, you will need a stem from new growth. Old stems that have had the colored leaf bracts already growing on them will not work well for this.

Dip the cut end of your stems in rooting hormone before inserting them in moist potting soil. They should be kept in a bright position but away from direct sunlight. They will grow well in a greenhouse, or you could put a clear plastic bag over the cutting to help increase humidity and recreate a greenhouse environment.

Once new growth appears on your cutting, you should remove the plastic bag, and after a few weeks, move the stem cutting to a larger pot. Keep the new plants in a bright spot until the fall when you will need to induce flowering by providing the poinsettias with long dark nights (New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension).

Reblooming

If you are able to provide the conditions the poinsettia requires, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to keep the plant blooming and healthy for a few months through the festive season. However, getting it to rebloom the following winter can take some effort. This typically begins in April. Follow these monthly guidelines to help your poinsettia bloom next year.

January, February, and March

Continue care as normal, watering the plant whenever the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.

April

Gradually dry out the plant by cutting back on watering, allowing a few days of dry soil before you water it again, and slowly increasing the length of time the soil spends dry between each watering.

If the stem begins to shrivel, then you have dried out the plant too quickly, and it is stressed and will die. This needs to be a gradual process so as not to shock the poinsettia. A few weeks into the drying process, transport the plant to a cool area, such as a basement. It should be kept at around 60 °F.

May

Now, your plant needs to be pruned. Cut it back to around 4 inches tall and repot it. Use a pot slightly larger than its previous pot and fill the bottom with new potting soil. Gently remove the plant from its original pot so as not to disrupt the roots and set it down in the new pot.

Fill around the root ball with more new potting soil, ensuring that the bottom of the stem sits at the same level as it did in the previous pot. Water the plant generously and move it back to its previous home in a warm and bright spot. Water the plant as you previously would have, adding water every time the surface of the soil is dry.

Once you spot new growth appearing on the plant, you should begin fertilizing it. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer at half the recommended strength once a month. All of the new growth will be green, and this is completely normal.

June

At this point, you can continue to grow your poinsettia as a houseplant in the brightest spot in your home, or you can move the plant outside for the summer. If you move it outside, select a partially shaded spot for the plant, ideally one that gets plenty of morning sunlight but is sheltered from the strong heat of the afternoon.

Continue with your usual watering and fertilizing schedule, noting that a plant kept outdoors may have need to be watered more frequently than if kept indoors. Poinsettias are actually grown as shrubs in their natural habitat and are hardy through USDA growing zones 10 to 12. If you live in one of these warmer zones, you can plant your poinsettia directly in the ground and grow it as a shrub.

July

At the beginning of July, the poinsettia will need to be lightly pruned. Do this by trimming back each stem by about an inch. This will encourage bushier growth with plenty of branching. If you see a poinsettia that has become tall and leggy, it is usually because this vital pruning has been neglected.

August

During August, the poinsettia should have nicely branched out and have plenty of new growth. Once again, prune the plant back, pinching the stems so that around four leaves are left on each. At the end of August, if your plant spent the summer outside, you can now bring it back indoors. Position it in a bright window and continue the usual maintenance.

September and October

Continue usual care until the last week of September or the first week of October, then begin a period of forced darkness for the plant. Poinsettias need between 8 and 10 weeks of short days, meaning total darkness for 14 or 15 hours overnight during this time. These short days are vital for the poinsettias to rebloom because their buds are affected by light.

The best way to manufacture these short days required by the plant is to move the plant to a dark spot at around 5 pm each day, bringing it back out at 8 am each morning to its usual bright spot. Some people put the plant in a disused room, such as a spare bedroom, and keep the curtains closed. Other people move the plant to a cupboard overnight.

Remember that a temperature of no lower than 60 °F needs to be maintained, so moving the plant to a garage or dark basement is not an option, and if you move the plant to a disused room, make sure it is heated.

The slightest bit of light during the dark nights will negatively affect the plant, delaying blooming, or preventing it altogether. If kept in a cupboard, it is wise to put a blanket over the plant so that if anyone opens the cupboard during the night, then it won’t be subjected to light.

Streetlights through a window or the soft glow of a nightlight will also affect the plant’s ability to bloom, so try your best to remove all chances of light getting to the plant during its overnight hours. Otherwise, all of your efforts to get the plant to rebloom may have been in vain.

November and December

By the middle to the end of November, the plant should have had a sufficient amount of short days and can now be permanently brought back to its usual bright spot. If all has gone well, the poinsettia should have developed its red leaf bracts, and flower buds should be forming on the plant by this time.

Continue usual care throughout the winter, and enjoy reaping the rewards of all your hard work!

Poinsettia

Very few plants are as closely associated with a holiday as poinsettias are with Christmas. The poinsettia, native to Mexico, was given the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima, which literally means “very beautiful.” Its popular name honors Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the plant here.

Poinsettias make great holiday decorations and they’re often given as gifts in late November and throughout December. The showy portions of the poinsettia, which most people think of as the flower, are actually colorful leaves called bracts. In addition to the traditional red, bracts can be pink, white, orange, and even purple. Poinsettia plants come in many sizes and their bracts come in a wide range of shapes.

Varieties

Until about ten years ago, poinsettia bracts dropped off the plant if it was kept indoors for more than a few days. Intensive breeding programs have produced new varieties—or cultivars—that retain their foliage and bracts indoors.

Some new cultivars involve unusual color combinations or blooming time. The bracts of the Ice Punch cultivar come out red and turn white as they grow. The color pattern of Peppermint Twist’s bracts varies from one plant to another, giving each plant a unique look. Advent Red—an annual that blooms as early as October—has been cultivated primarily as a landscape plant.

Care

With proper care, your poinsettias may stay colorful for many months. Poinsettias can retain their color until March if they are not exposed to freezing temperatures.

Keep your poinsettias away from drafts and chilly air. Poinsettias grow best in well-lit areas, but direct sun or hot lights can dry out the plants. Water your poinsettia when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Place a saucer under the pot, and drain the saucer if water starts to collect in it. Keep the soil from getting soggy. Too much water can kill a poinsettia. Slightly humid air will help prolong the plants’ color and life span; consider misting the plants with a sprayer or placing them on gravel trays.

Do not fertilize your indoor poinsettias until you are ready to move them outside. High levels of fertilizer will reduce the quality of the plant.

Planting Poinsettias

The UF Environmental Horticulture department holds a poinsettia show and sale every December.

When the holidays are over, consider saving your poinsettia to plant in the landscape. After the last frost, prune your poinsettia by removing the faded red bracts. Pick a spot where it’ll receive full sun for most of the day. Poinsettias grow best in moist, well-drained, fertile soils.

You’ll need to pinch back your poinsettia several times during the summer. This helps create a full plant with lots of flower heads. Remember that poinsettias are tropical plants and must be protected from frosts and freezing weather. Also, make sure to keep your poinsettia away from artificial light sources at night during the fall, as this can delay or completely prevent flowering.

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous, although some people are sensitive to the sap, which contains latex.

For more information on poinsettias, contact your county Extension office.

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Poinsettias at a Glance

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Five Facts About the Poinsettia
  • Holiday Gift Plants

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *