Who Doesn’t Love a Festive Poinsettia?

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
December 06, 2016

Poinsettias may be native to Mexico, but they’re also one of the most popular holiday flowers in the United States. However, caring for one can be a little tricky.

K-State Research and Extension horticulturist Ward Upham says poinsettias should be placed in a sunny window or the brightest area of the room, but try to avoid placing them in areas where they might experience drafts.

“In most situations, what we want for a daytime temperature is somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees, and a little bit cooler at night, maybe somewhere between 60 and 65,” Upham said.

“You don’t want to get above 75 because that will shorten the bloom life, and you don’t want to get below 60 because that may cause those roots to rot,” he added. “They are relatively sensitive to that type of thing when you get too cool of temperatures.”

Poinsettias are finicky when it comes to soil moisture: too much water can cause “wet feet”; and too little water can result in wilting and dropped leaves. Sticking your finger down about an inch into the soil is Upham’s recommendation for maintaining proper soil moisture.

“And if it’s still moist at that level, you don’t need to water,” he said. “When you do water, make sure you water well. You want to put enough water on that plant that some comes out of the bottom. That way you know you have the whole root ball moist.”

Use lukewarm water and discard any water that can be taken up again by the plant because the salts from the fertilizer used at the greenhouse can damage the plant.

If you’ve never bought a poinsettia because you heard they were poisonous to children, Upham says Ohio State University dispelled that myth by documenting a person eating poinsettia leaves. Apparently, the leaves taste awful, but are not poisonous.

As for another myth, the leaves are also not toxic to pets. However, the milky sap the plants produce can cause a mild mouth irritation.