Poinsettia Tips: How to Get Red Leaves Just in Time for Christmas

source: Reddit

I have way too many plants in the house that at one point I joked there wouldn’t even be space for me, my dog, and the plants. This was something that I always wanted, the green touch being added all over the house, giving a natural feeling to my home. It is quite calming to watch plants thrive and grow well in the surroundings. Out of all the plants around me now, there is one that I am rather fond of, and that is the poinsettia. Have you ever encountered one? If you have, you would surely understand why. While it is right to say that black is beautiful and is the color of power and elegance, who would not fall in love with the red leaves, especially in December? But changing the color of these leaves to the conventional red of the holiday is not that easy.

source: Pexels

Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbia pulcherrima species and come from Mexico and Central America. They appear as if they are flowers and are often confused with flowers, but the red-colored part is in fact not a flower but a leaf known as bracts. The floral part is the small yellow buds located at the center of the picture. In their native habitat, poinsettias can become large shrubs, approaching heights of 10 feet. But the ones usually available in the market during the festive season are somewhat smaller in size and can be comfortably installed in our homes.

They require bright, indirect light and prefer a daytime temperature of 65-70°F and slightly cooler at night. They are sensitive to cold drafts and sudden changes in temperature; hence, it is important to find a warm place without drafts. Poinsettias like moderate watering, and the soil should not be allowed to dry out completely or become waterlogged, as this will harm the plant.

source: Wikimedia/By André Karwath aka Aka – Own work

Well, how do you make them red and get them just in time for Christmas? Poinsettias are short-day plants, which implies that they require long nights to create their colorful bracts. Beginning in October, you have to mimic these long nights to cause the color change. Here’s how:

Darkness: For about eight weeks, it is recommended that the poinsettia should be subjected to 14 to 16 hours of darkness each day. This can be done by either placing it in a dark closet or putting a box over it. At night, take it out of the light. During the day, bring it back out into the light.

Light: It is important to know that even during the day your poinsettia needs bright but indirect light. Ensure it receives at least 6 hours of sunlight.

source: Wikimedia/By Francisco Manuel Blanco

Temperature: Adhere to the room temperature day and night as mentioned earlier in the comfort range. If the climate is extremely cold, it will shed leaves, while if the weather is very hot, it may not develop the colors it ought to.

Watering: Do not forget to water the plant, but make sure that you do not overwater it. Waterlogging causes root rot, which is deadly to poinsettias.

Poinsettias can be a little tricky to care for, but they are absolutely worth it. No one can resist the beauty of red leaf decorations in the house during the festive season. Besides, once one gets into it, it is rather enjoyable to do so.

source: Reddit

Thus, why are poinsettias so iconic with Christmas celebrations? Traditionally, this is a Mexican custom that dates back to the 16th century. There is a story that in one of the villages, there was a girl whose family could not afford a present for the baby Jesus during the celebration, so she was told in a dream to pick some weeds from the roadside and put them in the Church. Happily, the weeds grew into beautiful red flowers and came to be called ‘Flores de Noche Buena,’ or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night.’

Poinsettias were first imported to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico; Poinsett took the plant back to his home in South Carolina in the 1820s. Since then, poinsettias have gained popularity and are commonly associated with Christmas arrangements.

But what about after the holidays? Poinsettias are long-lasting; how long can they last, and how can they be made to last longer? If well taken care of, your poinsettia can remain healthy and attractive for the next couple of months. Here’s what you need to do:

source: Reddit

Post-Holiday Care: Continue providing bright light and water the plant regularly. Fertilize once a month with a balanced all-purpose houseplant food.

Pruning: In late winter or early spring, when the colorful bracts start to wilt, cut the plant to a height of six inches so that it can grow more branches.

Repotting: When the weather becomes moderately warm in the spring, it is advisable to repot the poinsettia in a slightly larger pot with new soil. This allows the roots to expand freely and is beneficial to the overall health of the plant.

Summer Care: In summer, you can take your poinsettia outside but ensure it is in a semi-shaded area. Remember not to leave it there if the temperature begins to drop in the fall though.

source: Pexels

By observing the steps mentioned above, you can have your poinsettia for many seasons. With a bit of time, effort, and of course, a bit of luck, you should be able to welcome those beautiful red leaves into your home every holiday season. So, take good care of your poinsettia and it will produce the most beautiful display for the holiday season that your friends and family will surely envy. Also, you will be able to share a good story of how you were able to maintain it throughout the entire year!