I wanted to bring the tricks of poinsettia care and keeping this plant alive and here are the details.
The first point I want to make about bringing home plants is to keep them warm.
Warm Is Important
We hope the stores will keep them warm but it is equally up to you to keep the plant warm as well.
Do not put them in the trunk on the way home. Do not leave them in the car while you do a few more errands and allow them to be chilled – this is a common problem with poinsettia care leading to leaf drop.
Simply imagine that you have a summer t-shirt on and if it is too cold for you, it is way too cold for our tropical plant friends.
Poinsettia Choice and Leaf Dropping
When you do buy yourself a poinsettia, never chose one of the plants the store leaves in the plastic wrappers with the plastic pulled up around the leaves.
As the plants sit in those protective wrappers, the leaves produce ethylene gas and this collects around the leaves.
It only takes about 24 hours of this protection and the plant will start dropping leaves and no amount of great poinsettia care on your part will help this.
You’ll take the plant home and as you unwrap the poinsettia, it will begin dropping leaves on the spot. Unfortunately, once the plant starts dropping leaves, there is no stopping it.
It will drop a few more every day no matter what you do or do not do to the plant. Instead, pick a plant that has leaves all the way to the soil line and make sure those bottom leaves are big and well connected to the stem.
The little yellow ball-like things in the middle of the red leaves are the true poinsettia flower and if they are missing, the plant is old and likely mistreated.
If these little flowers are not there or fall off easily, it means the plant is already on the downward slide to the compost pile.
Before you adopt a plant this season, turn over some of the leaves to look for white flies or their larvae – tiny, oval to circular raised bumps on the underside of the leaves.
If you see anything tiny and white flying off the plant when you pick it up – simply return the plant to the bench and look for another plant or vender. I note that if one plant has whitefly, nearby plants are almost certainly infected as well. It will not take long for these whiteflies to spread to other plants in your home.
Lots of Light
Poinsettia love high light levels and the more light you give them, the longer they will last in your home.
If you do put them in a low-light space, be prepared for them to drop their leaves. Remember, they have been grown in high-light greenhouses and the shock of moving to your darker home will encourage them to shed leaves. Brighter is better in the poinsettia care world.
Watering, or the absence if it, kills more poinsettia than any other thing the homeowner does. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. Not dry and not swampy.
Get used to doing the finger test. Put your finger on the soil, if it comes away dry – soak the plant so water pours out the bottom of the pot. If your finger comes away wet, do not water but repeat the test the next day. As long as your finger comes away wet from the soil, do not water.
There is no hard and fast rule that says,”Water every second day.” It all depends on your home humidity, temperature and location for the plant – not to mention the kind of soil used by the grower and the size of pot and plant. In the rules for great poinsettia care, the finger test is the only true way of knowing for sure.
Some folks use those water stick gizmos to tell them if their plants need water. They’ve never worked well for me but if they do for you – use them. Whatever you do, remember the rule of keeping the soil evenly moist.
You don’t have to feed your poinsettia during the blooming time.
Poisonous or Not?
And finally folks, poinsettias are not poisonous.
As members of the Euphorbia family, they do have a milky white sap that is bitter. But you would have to eat several bushels of leaves before you got enough sap to give yourself an upset stomach. So the rug-rats get it on their hands, (it is sticky) or on their mouth; it isn’t going to hurt them.
Nor is it going to hurt pets.
And those are the rules for poinsettia care during the Christmas season.