How to Care for Your Poinsettias During the Holidays
It's that time of year again: As the holidays approach, you're busy decorating your home with the iconic symbols of this festive season. One great way to bring a little color into your holiday décor is with a beautiful poinsettia. As you shop for one at the store, make sure to look for a poinsettia with large, brightly colored bracts (showy petal-like leaves) and dark green leaves. You'll also want to carefully inspected the plant's true flowers (the tiny yellow flowers at the center of the bracts) to make sure they were tightly closed and not shedding pollen—this ensures that the colorful bracts last for as long as possible. But beyond choosing a healthy plant, is there anything you can do to ensure it looks great all season long? As it turns out, there are some steps you can take. Follow our expert-approved tips to help your poinsettia survive the trip home and maintain its beauty throughout the holidays.
Make Sure to Use a Plant Sleeve During Transportation
Caring for a poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) begins the moment you purchase it from your local garden center. Richard Jauron, an Iowa State Extension horticulturist, says, "When you buy your poinsettia, make sure you get it wrapped in an enclosed paper plant sleeve so the leaves are not exposed to the cold weather when you walk to your car. Exposure to cold temperatures, even for a brief moment, can cause the leaves to blacken and drop."
Provide Ideal Indoor Growing Conditions
So, if poinsettias don't like the cold, they must like heat, right? Actually, that's not right either. Jauron says, "Warm temperatures can damage the plant just as much as cold temperatures, so once the plant is brought home, unwrap it and place it on your kitchen counter or favorite table." Ideally, a poinsettia should be displayed near a north or east-facing window that lets in bright but indirect light. With that being said, Jauron stresses that the perfect light conditions is actually less important than making sure you avoid placing your poinsettia near cold drafts or heat sources. The plant will thrive best in room temperatures that are between 60 and 70°F.
Check the Soil's Moisture Level Every Day
According to Jauron, improper watering is the most common cause for leaf drop on poinsettias—too much watering causes the lower leaves to turn yellow and ultimately drop off; plants that are kept too dry will wilt and also drop their leaves. Jauron says the best way to prevent leaf drop is to check the potting soil every day. "To determine whether a poinsettia needs water, just touch the soil with your fingers," says Jauron. "If the soil is dry to your touch, then water the plant until water starts to flow out the bottom of the pot. It's always best to water the plant before it gets too dry and begins to wilt, but it's also key to not overwater."
Know Your Toxic Plant Facts
Now that you know how to care for your beautiful poinsettia, how do you enjoy its full beauty when your guests may be fearful of the plants' effects on children and pets? It's important to know your plant facts and to take the time to educate your guests about the plant's features. Poinsettias have long been accused of being toxic, but experts say they're not as harmful as you think. Per the National Capital Poison Center, "In most cases, exposure to any parts of the poinsettia plant in children or pets has very little if any effect. If swallowed, it may cause mild irritation: nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Touching it may cause a rash." As a precautionary measure, the poison center recommends storing your poinsettia out of your child or pet's reach since the plant could cause choking if humans or pets take a bite out of it.