Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Poinsettia is very popular as an indoor flowering potted plant for Christmas decoration. It is much-loved for its large, festively coloured ‘flowers’ (actually leafy bracts). Poinsettia are usually vibrant red but there are also varieties in white and tones of pink and yellow. Some have double flowers.

The poinsettia is a large, winter-flowering shrub that grows in warm temperate and subtropical gardens in warm, sunny locations. It will reach 3m high in gardens. The potted plants that are available for sale in December as Christmas decorations are manipulated to flower out of season. This is possible as poinsettia flowers in response to short daylength. Christmas flowering is produced by artificially shortening the days using blackout screens in the nursery (usually in glasshouses) to extend hours of darkness.

Potted poinsettia will flower for at least six weeks indoors in a brightly lit spot or on a patio. After flowering finishes, the plant can be cut back lightly and transferred into a larger container or into the garden to flower in winter. It will not repeat flower at Christmas.

Growing conditions

Aspect Poinsettias grow in full sun to part shade or in a bright, well-lit spot indoors as a temporary indoor plant.

Potting mix/soil Use a premium potting mix for indoor plants such as Seasol Indoor Potting Mix. In the garden, plant in well-drained soil enriched with organic compost and/or Seasol Super Compost.

Climate Poinsettias prefer a warm temperate to subtropical climate. They are native to Mexico. In colder areas select a warm, sheltered microclimate protected from cold and frost such as against a north-facing brick wall. Cold conditions can kill plants.

To get the best from Poinsettias

General care

Watering Water regularly but allow water to drain from containers. Garden plants are relatively drought hardy but grow best with regular watering particularly in summer and where they are in dry locations.

Feeding Either a liquid or granular fertiliser can be used for Poinsettias. Apply granular PowerFeed Controlled Release Pots & Plants for Indoor & Outdoors once every season. It combines a premium mix of nutrients, seaweed, and microbes for all plants in pots. Supplement or apply a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES Pots & Planters or PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives every 2 to 4 weeks.

Pruning and on-going care Prune after flowering. Garden plants are cut back to almost ground level in late winter. Repot when the plant outgrows its space (usually every two years) or plant into the garden. Poinsettias can be grown from cutting. Regularly apply Seasol every two to four weeks to help promote strong healthy growth.

Watch out Poinsettias are rarely attacked by pests. Plants kept indoors for too long or exposed to air-conditioning draughts, will begin to fade or die back due to lack of light and environmental stress. Poinsettias are part of the euphorbia family and have milky sap (contained in stems and flower heads), which can be an irritant. Avoid getting sap on hands or in eyes when handling poinsettias or while pruning. If pests appear, squash or use an organic treatment following the instructions on the container.