University of Illinois Extension

Tips for Poinsettia

Poinsettias decorate many homes during the holiday season, said Ron Wolford, U of I Extension horticulture educator.

“There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today,” said Wolford. “Poinsettias come in a myriad of colors like red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.

Keeping your poinsettias healthy during the holiday season can be a challenge considering the dry indoor environments in many homes. The following are a few tips to help you keep your poinsettia alive.”

Purchase a poinsettia with fully colored bracts (modified leaves) and tightly closed flower buds. The plant will start to decline after the flower buds have fully opened.

After you have purchased your poinsettia, make sure it is wrapped completely, because exposure to cold temps below 50 degrees in just the short walk to your car can damage the bracts and leaves.

“For best light, place the poinsettia near a south, west or east facing window,” he said. “Six hours of indirect light would be ideal. Placing the plant in direct light may cause the colorful bracts to fade.

“Indoor temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees are ideal for long plant life. Placing the plant in a room a few degrees cooler at night will extend the color show of the poinsettia. Temperatures above 80 degrees will shorten the life of the colorful bracts.”

Keep your poinsettia away from warm or cold drafts. Drafts can cause premature leaf drop.

Overwatering is the number one poinsettia killer. Water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch. After watering, thoroughly empty any water in the pot’s saucer. Be sure to punch holes in the decorative foil to allow water to drain through.

“Do not fertilize when the poinsettia is in bloom,” said Wolford. “Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month after bloom.”

Research at The Ohio State University has shown that poinsettias are not poisonous. Some people are sensitive to the plant sap, causing skin irritation. For pets, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. Probably it is best to keep pets away from the plant, especially puppies and kittens.

For more information, Wolford recommends the University of Illinois Extension web site The Poinsettia Pages at