How to become green-fingered by Christmas!
Experts share the secrets for keeping a colourful poinsettia to last the season.Getting stuck-in with gardening duties over the Christmas period is reserved for die-hard outdoorsy types, but for the rest of us there’s poinsettia. A classic among houseplants, it stars during the festive season but has built up a bad rep as thee of little faith think it’s tricky to look after. Its Latin name; Euphorbia pulcherrima, describes it as the most beautiful of its genus. Which is true, but also means its incredible colouring lends to sensitivity too.But poinsettia experts at Stars for Europe have the answers so anyone less than keen on freezing in the garden can become green-fingered (or more like a stunning scarlet red) in warmth and comfort with this festive favourite.
Proper watering: less is more
Poinsettias don’t like a lot of water. Always remember that the plant’s root bale should neither dry out nor be drenched. Overwatering can quickly lead to waterlogging, which in turn causes root rot and leaves you with a dead plant.
Suss how your plant is feeling by inspecting its leaves. If they’re turning yellow or falling off, you’re probably not watering it right. Much like the case with orchids, many flower enthusiasts mean well but overwater poinsettias when they only really need a little. A small sip once every two days should be sufficient, or if you’re opting to immerse the whole root bale in water, rather than pouring, then just one dip per week should do.
Proper placement: warm and wind-free
Remember the golden rules: poinsettias need warmth and light, and must be kept away from droughts (that means NO fireplaces, NO open doorways, NO open windows, and NO breezy hallways).
Your Christmas gem is originally from Mexico, which explains its sensitivity to cold and wind, but that’s not to say it can’t be at happy in a cosy British home. Just keep it somewhere that attracts daylight; a windowsill would work, so long as the window isn’t left open, and bear in mind its favourite temperature falls between 15 and 20°C, so it should be happy in most living rooms.
How to buy
If your poinsettia wasn‘t treated properly before you bought it, it’s probably not going to last, but it’s easy to spot shop staff who don’t know the plant’s secrets. Many supermarkets scoop poinsettias in with flowers, placing them by the store‘s front door in the hope customers will be tempted on the way in or out. Never buy a poinsettia sat next to a set of automatic doors that open every 30 seconds, because it will have been damaged by those UK winds it never had to experience in Mexico.
If possible, check your poinsettia‘s soil before buying. It should be neither dripping wet nor totally dry, and if it is, it’s probably not been given proper TLC so might not last in your care. Finally, when you’ve chosen your poinsettia, make sure to wrap it up warm for the journey home.
Given up? Go for flowers!
If you’re one of those types who just can’t keep plants alive, why not buy a poinsettia, chop it up and boil it alive. Not through frustration but for a beautiful floral arrangement. Cut the bracts off your plant, dip the cut ends in boiling water for 20 seconds and then immediately in cold water, and your leaves should stay vibrant and red for up to a week. Then, just arrange in a vase with or without other fresh flowers.
Poinsettia care guide fast facts
- From November, poinsettias are available in stores everywhere.
- Dense foliage and yellow-green budding flowers in-between the coloured bracts are a sure sign of quality.
- Protect your poinsettia from the wind and transport it quickly to its warm new home.
- Keep it in a bright, warm spot (around 20° C). It can be close to a radiator, but not in direct sunlight or near draughts – so keep away from open doors, windows and fireplaces.
- Don’t overwater it by leaving a pool of water in the bottom of the pot it’s sitting in. Only water when the soil is almost completely dry.
- To use poinsettia leaves as fresh flowers in a vase, cut the bracts, dip the cut end in boiling water for 20 seconds, then immediately in cold water, and you’re ready to arrange.