Save Your Plant – Poinsettia

It used to be lush, vibrant red and in full bloom. It arrived wrapped in a lovely foil wrapper. But now the few leaves left are about to succumb to gravity, and more leaves are falling off. What can you do to restore it to it’s original goodness?


Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

  • Member of the spurge family
  • Originally from Mexico
  • Red ‘petals’ are actually modified leaves called bracts
  • The flowers are the tiny, yellow centre

If your poinsettia looks like this one [see photo], don’t give up on it yet. You may be able to restore it to its original form. Chances are that at this stage neglect has reduced your poinsettia to stems with few leaves and the plant has entered a dormancy stage. The first thing you should do is place it in a sunny window that is not subject to cold drafts. A south-facing window is good, but avoid harsh, direct light. Water regularly. Keep the soil moist, not soggy. As the leaves fall off, remove them from the pot and discard. Cut back any stems that are rotting to below the dead area. Maintain a steady temperature of 60-70º F.

In late March or early April prune stems back to leave 6-8 inch stumps. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when pruning: sap from the stems of this plant can be irritating to your skin. Continue watering the plant and begin fertilizing it according to your regular fertilizing program (I use worm castings and sea kelp to fertilize my own plants). The plant should begin a rigorous growth spurt.

By early June, your plant should be ready for a bigger pot. Keep up regular watering and fertilization. If it is warm enough outside, you can put it outside where it will get lots of light. Pinch back the new growth periodically for a bushier plant. You should bring your poinsettia indoors at the onset of Fall and before the nights begin to get longer and cooler.

How to Make Your Poinsettia Red Again

The Poinsettia is a photoperiod plant. This means that they naturally begin to bud and produce flowers according to the number of hours they spend in darkness. If you want to re-bloom your poinsettia indoors you will need to observe the following steps, beginning at the end of September.

Every night place a black bag or cardboard box over the plant and put the plant inside a dark closet. The poinsettia must be in complete darkness for 14 hours each night. In the daytime place the plant in a sunny window. Once the plant begins to bud (8-10 weeks), you can place it into a sunny window permanently and your poinsettia will be red with yellow flowers in time for the holidays.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla