How to grow and care for poinsettias

Most of us are familiar with the brilliant red poinsettia, always popular at Christmas. The red comes from the showy bracts, which are the outer leaves surrounding the flowers.

What you need to know about poinsettia

Name: poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Height: up to 3m in the ground, but often pot-grown

Foliage: mid-green, oval, soft, sometimes tinged red.

Climate: sub-tropical to tropical; indoor plant in cool climates.

Soil: well-drained, fertile loam or quality potting mix.

Position: sunny open spot; light shade from hot midday/afternoon sun will reduce leaf scorch.

Flowering: “flowers” made up of coloured bracts surrounding a cluster of insignificant flowers; colours from white through pink to crimson.

Feeding: use a long-term controlled-release fertiliser; supplement with liquid food from spring to autumn

Watering: keep moist, but not wet.

Ponsettias

Appearance and characteristics of poinsettias

Poinsettia comes from Mexico and enjoys a warm temperate to sub-tropical climate. It is a succulent, although its leaves are not typically fleshy. They are mid-green and occasionally tinged with red. The plant’s stems may also sometimes be red.

Poinsettia exudes a milky sap when its stems are cut or damaged. Avoid skin contact, as the sap can cause irritation in some people.

In the garden, plants may grow to 4m tall and will need regular pruning to keep them within bounds. There are also many dwarf varieties available that grow to only 1–2m.

The star feature of poinsettias is the “flower” produced at the ends of branches. In pots and in the garden, these can completely smother the leaves during the flowering period.

Poinsettia usually flowers in winter. To achieve colour for Christmas in the southern hemisphere, plants are grown in light- and temperature-controlled glasshouses to trick them into thinking it’s winter, not summer.

Many varieties of poinsettia are available, with variegated foliage and bracts ranging from creamy white to blush pink. Most are more compact, and bushier than the original red species.

Growing conditions

Poinsettia can be grown in a pot or in the garden in a warm area. It prefers a full sun to half shade position—it will not flower or colour up well in dense shade. Shelter from strong winds is essential, as the branches are quite brittle. Well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost and weathered animal manure will encourage healthy, vigorous growth.

In cooler climates, poinsettia will do better in a pot that can be moved to a sheltered position, warmed by the sun and protected from frosts and cold winds.

Always use a premium-quality potting mix that drains well, and a pot size that comfortably holds the root ball of the plant. Never put a small plant into a large pot.

How to grow poinsettia from cuttings

Poinsettia can be grown from stem cuttings taken in spring or summer:

  1. Wash off the milky sap in fresh water.

  2. Set the poinsettia cuttings into a tray or pot of propagating mix or coarse washed sand.

  3. When roots have formed, pot plants up individually.

Caring for poinsettias

Poinsettia plant care is relatively easy. Although it is a succulent, poinsettia does like a reasonable amount of moisture. It will need watering at least once a week over summer (more often in pots, or when it’s very hot and dry). Make sure to thoroughly soak it each time. Reduce frequency as the weather cools, but don’t let it dry out completely.

To encourage good colour in the flower heads, apply a water-soluble or liquid fertiliser high in potash (potassium or “K” in the “NPK” ratio printed on the label) every 3–4 weeks throughout the year.

A controlled-release fertiliser that feeds for up to six months is also recommended—choose one for flowering plants or garden beds.

When growing poinsettia in a pot, always use a premium-quality potting mix. Cover the drain holes in the pot with flywire mesh to prevent the mix washing out.

Established plants in the garden and pots should be pruned back when they have finished flowering. You can be quite harsh—the plant will respond with lush new growth and prolific flowering.

After Christmas …

Poinsettia is a symbol of Christmas, and potted plants are often bought simply to add a touch of red to the decor during the festive season, after which they are discarded when the flowers fade.

Rather than toss the plant into the compost bin, cut it back reasonably severely, give it a handful of controlled-release fertiliser and move the pot to a spot where it will receive a minimum of six hours of indirect sunlight daily.

After the plant has grown new shoots, either re-pot into a bigger container or transplant into the garden. It should flower again during winter.

Poinsettia pests and diseases

Poinsettia may occasionally be attached by aphids or thrips. A natural insecticide like pyrethrum will control these.

In pots, fungus gnats (small black flies) in the potting mix may cause root damage. An organic insecticide applied to the soil may solve the problem, but if it doesn’t, re-pot the plant into fresh premium-quality potting mix from a newly purchased bag.

If you like this then try

Brugmansia: a woody shrub with masses of pendulous perfumed flowers; its common name is angel’s trumpet.

Palms: from massive date and coconut palms to potted kentias, palms are synonymous with the tropics.

Hibiscus: flamboyant tropical shrub with flowers from yellow to brick red; will grow in a protected spot in cool areas.

Start growing today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

How to build a garden bed 05:37

Planting & Growing How to build a garden bed Transform your outdoor area by learning how to build a garden bed. It’s easy to do, just follow our step-by-step guide.

variety of indoor plants

Planting & Growing Discover 12 plants that are the best for indoors Striking foliage and stunning colour isn’t just reserved for the garden. There’s a wide variety of indoor plants you can use to bring colour and life to your home explains Bunnings Greenlife buyer Katrina Gatt.

Person planting spinach 03:11

Planting & Growing How to grow vegetables Watch our step-by-step guide and find out everything you need to know about how to grow fresh vegetables in your garden.

Person trimming the hedge with battery shears 01:28

Planting & Growing How to trim hedges Hedges are an excellent way to add shape to your garden. Here are a couple of tips to effectively trim and maintain a hedge.

Person putting on protective edging on the raised garden bed 01:38

Planting & Growing How to build a raised garden bed Building a raised garden bed is a simple project you can do yourself. Learn how to build a raised garden bed with this guide from Bunnings Warehouse.

Person adding compost and manure to the soil 02:01

Planting & Growing How to improve sandy soil Good soil is the foundation for any healthy garden. We can show you how to improve sandy soil to retain more nutrients and water.

succulents 02:01

Planting & Growing How to plant and care for succulents Succulents come in a huge range of colours, shapes and sizes, will grow just about anywhere and don’t need much looking after, making them a plant that’s perfect for even the most novice gardener. If you’re new to succulents, here are some tips from...

Person cutting the corrugated edging 03:08

Planting & Growing How to install garden edging Garden edging can help to make your garden beds look neat and tidy. We’ll show you how to install plastic or corrugated garden edging around your garden.

hydrangea

Planting & Growing How to create an allergy-friendly garden If you suffer from hay fever or other allergies, then being out in the garden can, at times, be less than enjoyable. But there are some steps you can take to create an allergy-friendly garden so you can spend more time gardening and less time sneezi...

pot

Planters How to choose the right plant pot Pots are a great way to add colour, interest or texture to your outdoor space. Tuscan Path’s Elaine Foster shares her top tips on how to choose the perfect pot.

sunflower

Planting & Growing How to plant and care for sunflowers Sunflowers are a great way to add colour to your garden, and they’re easy to grow and care for. Bunnings Greenlife buyer Katie explains the basics of how to grow sunflowers and shares some tips on how to care for them.

paint

Guides & Projects How to upcycle almost any piece of furniture with paint Rather than throwing out old household items, you can restore them with paint. It’s a quick, easy and affordable way to give anything from furniture to fences a new lease on life. Learn how to paint and prepare different surfaces to get the finish y...

DIY balcony and courtyard garden

Planters D.I.Y. balcony and courtyard garden Even if your outdoor space is limited to a balcony or courtyard, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having a garden. The team at Tuscan Path, who have been supplying pots to the Australian marketplace for over 40 years, share some ideas on how ...

 kitchen benchtop materials

Benchtops & Cabinets A guide to kitchen benchtop materials The perfect benchtop will add style to any kitchen. It’ll also see the most action, so choosing the right benchtop for your kitchen – and budget – is an important decision explains Bunnings Kitchen Designer Ben Carey.

Top of the content