Use a champagne flute and let them dry out: How to water poinsettias right – six tricks of the trade.

Poinsettias have topped the list of the most popular flowering winter houseplants for many years. Whether used to design modern, colourful displays or classic Christmas decorations, you won’t get through the last weeks of the year without spotting them. To enjoy the plant for as long as possible, you’ll need to keep it in a bright, warm place protected from draughts, and follow these six top watering tips. Here, experts from Stars for Europe (SfE) reveal more.

1. Use room temperature water

The poinsettia originates from tropical Mexico, so it doesn’t like cold water any more than cold air. After filling up a watering can, it’s best to let water sit for a little until it’s reached room temperature.

2. They prefer soft water

Poinsettias don’t like hard water. Rainwater is naturally soft (low in minerals like lime) and is therefore perfect for plants – you can collect it outside to water your poinsettias. In regions with hard drinking water, you could reduce the mineral content of tap water by boiling it or letting it stand for a day. This deposits the minerals that make the water hard. You can also mix tap water with distilled water or use a water filter.

Tip: If you use a tumble dryer, you can also use the water from the drying process to dilute water that is too hard.

3. Water only when the soil has dried out

Poinsettias tolerate being left to dry out for short spells much better than having soil that is constantly wet. So, only water them when the soil feels dry – insert your finger and check it’s dry even at a depth of two centimetres, or when the pot feels suprisingly light when lifted. That said, don’t let the soil become as dry as dust, avoid letting it dry out so much that it feels powdery to touch.

4. Water regularly but moderately - a champagne flute is perfect

The soil of a poinsettia should never be completely soaked. It’s better to water less, but more frequently, than in large quantities. For a standard sized poinsettia in a pot of about 13cm, use around 100 millilitres of water per session – about as much as you’d fit in a champagne flute. On the other hand, a miniature poinsettia in a 6cm pot only needs half a shot glass worth of water.

A good guideline for standard sized plants is to water this way every two to three days, although mini poinsettias may need to be watered daily due to the small volume of soil. If they’re kept in a very warm room or near a heater they might also need more frequent watering.

5. Discard excess water

About 15 minutes after watering, any excess water should be removed from the saucer or planter that the pot is sitting in, as poinsettias can’t tolerate waterlogging. Alternatively, you can also water the plant from the base, letting it drink from the bottom.

To do this, pour water directly into the saucer or outer planter, then place the poinsettia’s plant pot in it and wait for about 15 minutes for the soil to soak it up. If the water goes more quickly, add a little more. If the water level doesn’t change for several minutes, it means the plant has had enough and it’s time to discard the excess.

6. Dunk instead of pour

For those who don’t want to worry about regular watering, the dunking method is a good alternative. In this case, when the plant is dry, the entire root ball is completely immersed in room-temperature water for a few minutes. To do it, take the plant in its standard pot with drainage holes and dunk it into a bucket or deep sink. Bubbles will rise up to the top, this indicates the soil is absorbing water. When the bubbles slow down and stop, it means the poinsettia has had enough.

At this point, quickly lift the plant, briefly let the water drain out and then place the poinsettia back in its outer planter or saucer. Remember to remove any excess water than seeps out after 15 minutes at the latest. With this method, you’ll only need to water about once per week, so it’s perfect if you’re away from home for a few days.

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