Poinsettia : Eight tips to keep your poinsettias alive and happy throughout the festive season and beyond.

Poinsettia (botanical name: Euphorbia pulcherrima) is the most widely available plant in Malta over the Christmas season. Local Maltese growers plant thousands of poinsettia plants every summer in anticipation of the Christmas season yet by the end of November they are all sold out and Malta still imports thousands of this festive plant from Italy every year.

The Poinsettia is otherwise known as the Christmas Starflower, and it originates in Mexico. For many years it was the only Christmas plant available in Malta however recently other Christmas plants including Fresh Christmas trees, mini Christmas trees, and Ilex berries are becoming popular too.

Poinsettias can be quite easy to care for. Once Christmas is over, you are free to pop yours on the compost heap or into the recycling bin, use as a cut flower, or you can try to get your poinsettia to bloom again for the following year.

Poinsettia available in 3 colours

How do you take care of a poinsettia?

1. Poinsettias need a steady warm temperature. Keep it away from windows as the temperature near a window can go down significantly at night. Also do not put it next to heating sources, fireplaces, and doorways where there might be a draught. If it’s too windy, poinsettias will lose their leaves. A temperature between 15 and 22 degrees Celcius is ideal.

2. Make sure your plant has sufficient light. Having a good amount of indirect light is important for the plant to thrive (poinsettias prefer a light spot rather than full shade). However, do keep your plant out of direct sunlight to protect their leaves from burning, but in the winter months, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Watering your Poinsettia plant

3. Poinsettias prefer soft water. Unfortunately, here in Malta, our tap water is hard and full of minerals. If you have a tumble dryer save the water and use it to dilute hard water to water your poinsettias. You can also boil tap water and let it stand to reduce mineral content or use filtered water. Your poinsettias will be much happier with soft water.

4. Do not over-water. Poinsettias do not like a lot of water so always be sure that the soil is neither dried out nor drenched. Overwatering causes waterlogging, and this will kill your pretty poinsettias very quickly.

5. Check soil dryness. Insert your finger in the soil up to a depth of two centimeters to check if the soil is evenly dry or carefully lift up the plant; if it feels light, it’s time to water. The amount of water a plant needs varies on where it is placed – if it is in a room next to a heating source or in a courtyard it’s a different story. Mini poinsettias should be checked every day. You can also water these plants by putting them in a water dish and adding water for an hour every other day this will allow the plant to drink as much as it needs.

6.  Poinsiettas like humid conditions, so spray their leaves with a mister of water to keep them humid. Especially if placed in a heated room or office.

How do you take care of a poinsettia after Christmas?

7.  Prune it in April to about 10cm, and keep it in a cool spot. Repot in May and put in a slightly larger pot. Keep it in a cool place over the summer. Summer months in Malta can be tough on plants so make sure it’s in a shady place with a nice breeze.

8. From October onwards make sure it gets enough light during the day. This will help the flowers flourish.

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