You were in the Christmas aisle and the Poinsettia was staring at you. In the back of your mind, a little voice said: "Why not buy a living plant rather than flowers this season?" Now you have a wonderful plant but have no clue how to keep it alive.
They might be primadonnas, but in a few easy steps, we will explain to you why your Poinsettia is throwing a tantrum, teach you some tips and how to make it flourish!
Poinsettia fact sheet
Poinsettia, or Euphorbia pulcherrima
, is native to Mexico and Guatemala. They occur throughout the tropical regions of the northeast and southwest where they ‘bloom’ during winter months.
Fact | The red bracts form in winter or when the plant is subjected to more than 12h of complete darkness. This normally coincides with December in its natural habitat.
Fact | Commercial varieties are treated with growth suppressant which keeps them small.
To get a Poinsettia to flower out of season, i.e. in the South African summer, it is exposed to winter conditions in a greenhouse. This means your Poinsettia is one very confused plant when you get it. You essentially told it, it is winter and then summer the next day.
Off the bat, a Poinsettia will not like jumps in temperature (without moisture) as it will significantly stress the plant. It will generally show its displeasure by dropping leaves. Nonetheless, this does not mean it will die.
Here are some general guidelines and grow instructions to follow:
It is a summer rainfall plant and will require less during winter. Be aware that if you just bought it in summer with red bracts it is in a different cycle, so make sure to let it dry between waterings.
Bright filtered light.
Need a minimum temperature of 13-15C. During winter a consistent 18C will allow flowers to develop. It does not like frost, so keep this in mind.
Once the plant has acclimated, you can fertilise during the growing season.
It is advisable not to repot a newly acquired Poinsettia as they may already be under some stress.
Like all native Euphorbia, Poinsettia also produces a milky sap that should not make contact with skin. Always wear gloves and keep away from pets.
This said, be careful when growing them in winter rainfall areas as it does not like to be wet during winter.
Remember that once your Poinsettia has acclimated to your garden or home (which may take a year), it will start blooming in winter. To get Poinsettia blooms in summer, you can take cuttings and root them 6 months before.
If you have rooted cuttings you can blackout sunshine for a minimum of 12 hours by placing it in a completely dark room or covering with a box (8-10 weeks). This will cause the small plants to start producing red bracts and flowers.
If ones fail, then try and try again. You might just get the hang of it this year!