How to make a poinsettia thrive. Expert tips on selection and care.

For decades, the colourful leaves of poinsettias have marked the most beautiful time of year. A festive combination of freshly baked biscuits, candlelight and floral poinsettias is a ritual that make Christmas so special. But weeks before the first door on the Advent calendar opens, poinsettias are already revealing their potential.

The poinsettia experts at Stars for Europe share tips on how to keep these plants looking their best for weeks.

Poinsettias need light and warmth

Poinsettias feel at home in a warm, bright place away from draughts. A temperature of between 15 and 22 degrees is ideal, making these plants well suited to bedrooms and living rooms. Since the poinsettia originates from tropical Mexico, it needs lots of light.

In the winter months it is happy by a south-facing window. Direct sunlight is not a problem since in our climates, from mid-October onwards the danger of too much sunlight hitting leaves is virtually non-existent. However, sufficient light is important for the plant to grow and thrive. On the other hand, poinsettias hate draughts, so you should always place them in a sheltered spot. If it’s too draughty, this warmth-loving plant may start to lose its leaves.

How to water poinsettias

Poinsettias require different amounts of water depending on location, room temperature, plant and pot size. For a standard pot with a diameter of 13cm, give it no more than a small glass of water, i.e. around 0.2 litres. This prevents large pores in the soil from clogging up and waterlogging. Mini poinsettias should not be given more than one shot glass of water. Excess water that is still in the planter after ten minutes should be removed.

Water poinsettias when the soil is noticeably dry. This could be every day in the case of a plant near a radiator in a dry room, or only every second or third day in other spots. You can check by carefully lifting up the plant. If it feels light, it’s time to water. It’s worth noting that smaller pots dry out faster than larger ones, so you will need water them more often. Mini poinsettias should be checked every day. You can also water these plants by soaking them from below, which saturates the soil more than normal watering.

If in doubt, it’s better to keep poinsettias a little drier (rather than too moist) and to water them little and often, rather than rarely but in great quantity. Poinsettias are particularly long-lasting when they are fertilised once a week from about four weeks after purchase, using a commercial liquid fertiliser for flowering houseplants in the dosage indicated on the packaging.

Quality plant characteristics

If you choose a good quality plant and follow all of this advice, your poinsettias will flower for a long time. A high-grade plant can be recognised by undamaged leaves and small budding yellow flowers at its centre. The soil should be neither dried out nor soaking wet. A true plant-loving retailer will also place their poinsettias away from the draughty entrance area of the store.

It’s important to wrap your poinsettia in paper for the journey home to protect it from draughts and temperatures below 12 degrees Celsius. This protects it from damage that is initially invisible but can lead to premature loss of leaves after a few days.

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