It’s time to deck the halls with our favorite holiday plant, the Poinsettia!

These colorful plants are native to Mexico where they bloom during December and can grow up to 16 feet tall.  Today they are a beautiful symbol of the holiday season.  Color choices include red, pink, white and gold.  What we think of as the plant’s flowers are actually modified leaves or bracts.

Woman with Christmas flower poinsettia, closeup

When shopping for a poinsettia, look for:

  • Dark green, dense and plentiful foliage,
  • Tightly clustered buds to last the whole holiday season,
  • Fully colored leaves all around the yellow buds; small partly green leaves mean the plant will lose color soon,
  • Yellow buds in the center of the bract that is starting to fall off, or shedding tiny grains of yellow pollen, are signs the plant isn’t fresh,
  • Avoid plants with yellow, greenish-white or wilting leaves, and those with faded, torn or discolored bracts,
  • Check for insects, as with any plants.

When you get home, put the pot where it will get bright indirect light.  Avoid cold drafts or heat sources.  The ideal temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Be sure to punch holes in the foil so water can drain into a saucer.  Use your finger to check the soil daily and only water when it’s dry.  Let water run into the saucer, then drain the excess.  Overwatering is a major cause of early leaf drop, as is allowing the soil to dry out too much.

Poinsettias are not poisonous but can irritate the mouth and stomach of pets that eat large amounts, sometimes causing vomiting. The sap can irritate the skin of humans or pets.  Wash affected the skin with soap and water after contact.  Use this mildly toxic plant with caution, but the dangers are rarely serious or fatal. If you experience a severe reaction of any kind, promptly seek medical help.

With good care, a poinsettia will be a pretty addition to your home for 6 to 8 weeks. Here are some great tips & resources: