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Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)

Poinsettia, Bird-of-Paradise Flower, Christmas Flower, Christmas Star, Fire on the Mountain, Fire Plant, Lobster Flower, Mexican Easter Flower, Mexican Flameleaf, Painted Leaf, Pride of Barbados

Euphorbia pulcherrima, Poinsettia, Bird-of-Paradise Flower, Christmas Flower, Christmas Star, Fire on the Mountain, Fire Plant, Lobster Flower, Mexican Easter Flower, Mexican Flameleaf, Painted Leaf, Pride of Barbados, Red Flowers

The Poinsettia encapsulates the holiday spirit for many people, brightening homes and public spaces with its vibrant, festive colors. Its adaptability to life indoors has made it a staple of the holiday season far beyond its tropical origins, and its striking appearance guarantees its continuing popularity. Poinsettia ranks as a top choice among tropical flowers for enthusiasts and gardeners.

Poinsettia: Festive Elegance

Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as Poinsettia, is a plant species from the diverse spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). Prized for its striking red and green foliage, it is the most popular Christmas plant and best-selling potted plant in the United States and Canada.

Native:
The Poinsettia is native to Mexico and Central America, where it is known as “Flor de Nochebuena” or Christmas Eve Flower.

Plant Type and Habit:
It’s a perennial shrub in its native habitat but is often grown as an annual or houseplant in temperate climates. The plant has an upright, branching habit.

Size:
Poinsettia can grow up to 3-10 feet tall (90-300 cm) and 3-7 feet. wide (90-210 cm). As a potted houseplant, it rarely exceeds 2-3 ft. (60-90 cm). There are over 100 varieties of Poinsettias available.

Flowers:
Contrary to popular belief, the colorful parts of Poinsettias are not flowers but bracts (modified leaves). The actual flowers are small and yellow, situated in the center of the leafy red bracts. Poinsettias typically bloom in the short-day conditions of winter, specifically around Christmas time.

Foliage:
The plant has large, green, bluntly toothed, and ovate leaves. The upper leaves, called bracts, change color from green to red (or sometimes white, pink, or marbled) during the blooming period. The colorful bracts will drop after pollination. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.

Hardiness:
Poinsettias are sensitive to cold and are hardy only in USDA zones 9-11.  They are not frost-tolerant and need a constant temperature of around 55º (18ºC) to color up nicely. In colder climates, they are usually grown indoors

Uses:
The Poinsettia is most widely used as a decorative plant during the Christmas season, both in homes and public spaces. Its striking red and green foliage make it a popular choice for holiday floral displays. It is perfect for patio containers or as an informal hedge in frost-free areas.

Wildlife:
The plant is not known for attracting significant wildlife, though in its native regions, it may attract certain pollinators.

Deer and Rabbits:
The plant is generally not favored by deer or rabbits, likely due to its somewhat toxic sap.

Toxicity: While not as toxic as once believed, the milky sap can irritate the skin and stomach if ingested, so keep the plant away from pets and children.

Drought:
Poinsettias are relatively drought-tolerant once established, although they prefer a more humid environment for optimal growth.

Invasiveness:
The plant is usually not considered invasive, particularly since it is sensitive to frost and can’t easily establish itself in non-tropical climates. It is reported to be invasive in Hawaii.

Benefits:
Besides its aesthetic value, the plant has cultural and economic importance, especially in the U.S., where it has become synonymous with holiday celebrations. It also has some traditional medicinal uses in its native regions, although these are not scientifically substantiated.

Fun Fact: It was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the U.S. in the 1820s.

poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima

How to Grow and Care for Poinsettia: A Comprehensive Guide for Vibrant Holiday Blooms

Growing and caring for Poinsettias doesn’t have to be complicated. These festive plants are relatively easy to maintain with the right know-how. Here’s your comprehensive guide to ensuring your Poinsettias stay vibrant and healthy all season.

Selection and Placement

  • Choose Healthy Plants: Opt for poinsettias with fully-colored and extended bracts (the colored leaves below the true, yellow flowers) and strong, straight stems.
  • Location: Place your poinsettia near a sunny window where it will receive indirect light for at least 6 hours per day.

Soil and Potting

  • Soil: Poinsettias prefer loamy, neutral to alkaline, well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
  • Repotting: Although not always necessary, you can repot the poinsettia using a mixture of peat, pine bark, and perlite if the original pot is too small or if the soil appears to be spent.

Watering

  • Frequency: Water the plant whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Method: Water the soil until it runs freely out the drainage hole to ensure the roots are getting enough moisture. Be sure to empty any excess water from the saucer to prevent root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

  • Temperature: Poinsettias prefer daytime temperatures of 60-70°F (16-21°C) and nighttime temperatures around 55°F (13°C).
  • Humidity: A humidifier can help maintain the 50-60% humidity levels that Poinsettias enjoy.

Fertilizing

  • Frequency: Fertilize poinsettias only if you keep them after the holiday season. Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer every 4-6 weeks after the blooming season.

Special Care for Blooms

  • Dark Treatment: To re-bloom, poinsettias require about 14 hours of total darkness for at least 40 days.
  • Light Exposure: After the dark treatment, place the plant back in a sunny window to encourage colorful bract development.

Poinsettia, Pink Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima

How to Prune Poinsettia

  • When to Prune: The best time to prune a poinsettia is in late winter or early spring after it has finished blooming. Another light pruning can be done in mid-summer to help the plant maintain its shape.
  • How to Prune:
    • Use sterilized pruning shears to avoid transferring diseases.
    • Cut back the stems to about 4 to 6 inches above the soil, leaving one to three leaves on each stem.
    • This will encourage new growth and result in a bushier plant.
  • Pinching: Throughout the growing season, you can also “pinch” the tips of the new growth to encourage branching. This will make for a fuller plant when the next blooming season arrives.

How to Repot Poinsettia

  • When to Repot: Repotting can be done after the blooming season is over, usually in late winter or early spring. If you notice that the plant becomes root-bound or the soil appears spent, it’s time to repot.
  • How to Repot:
    • Choose a container that is about 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot.
    • Make sure the new pot has good drainage holes.
    • Use a well-draining soil mix rich in organic matter. You can use a mixture of peat, pine bark, and perlite or a high-quality potting mix designed for acid-loving plants.
    • Gently remove the poinsettia from its current pot, being careful not to damage the root ball.
    • Place some of the new soil in the bottom of the new pot.
    • Center the plant in the new pot and fill around it with the soil mixture.
    • Water the plant thoroughly to help the soil settle.
    • Place your plant grow in a light place over summer at 60-65ºF (15-18ºC).

Poinsettia, White Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima

How to Propagate Poinsettia

Propagating poinsettias is usually done through stem cuttings. While the process is not as straightforward as propagating some other houseplants, it’s still possible for home gardeners to achieve good results.

  • Prepare the Pot: Fill the small pot with the sterile potting mix. Water it to ensure the mix is moist but not soggy.
  • Select the Cutting: Choose a healthy stem that is at least 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long and has at least two to three leaves. Cut just below a leaf node (where a leaf is or was attached to the stem).
  • Handle with Care: Wear gloves to protect yourself from the milky sap, which can be an irritant.
  • Prepare the Cutting: Remove the lower leaves, leaving at least one or two at the top. You can dip the cut end into rooting hormone, although this is optional.
  • Plant the Cutting: Insert the cut end into the potting mix in the pot, covering the lower leaf node where you removed the leaves.
  • Cover the Pot: Place a plastic bag over the pot and secure it with a rubber band or twist tie to create a humid environment for the cutting.
  • Provide Light: Place the pot in indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can raise the temperature inside the plastic bag and potentially scorch the cutting.
  • Check for Root Growth: After 4-6 weeks, gently tug the cutting. If you feel resistance, roots have likely formed. Remove the plastic bag and continue to grow the plant as usual.
  • Transplant: Once the cutting has developed a healthy root system and is growing well, you can transplant it into a larger pot or into the garden if your climate allows.

Important Notes:

  • Poinsettias are short-day plants, which means they require long periods of darkness to encourage blooming. If you’ve propagated your poinsettia successfully and want it to bloom in time for the next holiday season, remember to provide it with the necessary dark periods starting in late September or early October.
  • Also, keep in mind the sap of poinsettias can be irritating to some people and pets, so always handle with care.

By following these steps, you can successfully propagate poinsettia plants and enjoy these festive beauties for many holiday seasons to come!

Pest and Diseases

Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 11
Heat Zones 10 - 11
Climate Zones 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1, H2
Plant Type Houseplants, Shrubs
Plant Family Euphorbiaceae
Genus Euphorbia
Common names Pride of Barbados, Poinsettia, Fire Plant, Fire on the Mountain, Christmas Flower, Christmas Star
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early)
Winter
Height 3' - 10'
(90cm - 3m)
Spread 3' - 7'
(90cm - 210cm)
Spacing 36" (90cm)
Maintenance High
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Hedges And Screens, Patio And Containers
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Euphorbia obesa (Baseball Plant)
Euphorbia resinifera (Resin Spurge)
Euphorbia mammillaris (Corncob Cactus)
Euphorbia xanti (Baja Spurge)
Euphorbia ceratocarpa (Sicily Spurge)
Euphorbia corollata (Flowering Spurge)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

Native Plant Alternatives to Euphorbia cyparissias (Cypress Spurge)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 11
Heat Zones 10 - 11
Climate Zones 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1, H2
Plant Type Houseplants, Shrubs
Plant Family Euphorbiaceae
Genus Euphorbia
Common names Pride of Barbados, Poinsettia, Fire Plant, Fire on the Mountain, Christmas Flower, Christmas Star
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early)
Winter
Height 3' - 10'
(90cm - 3m)
Spread 3' - 7'
(90cm - 210cm)
Spacing 36" (90cm)
Maintenance High
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Hedges And Screens, Patio And Containers
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Euphorbia (Spurge)
Guides with
Euphorbia (Spurge)
Not sure which Euphorbia (Spurge) to pick?
Compare Now

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