Perfect Poinsettia Plant Care in 3 Easy Steps

how to care for poinsettias over the holidays

Taking care of poinsettias over the holidays is simple if you follow these three steps; keep your poinsettias warm when bringing them home, don’t overwater your poinsettias and avoid heaters or cold drafts. 

Few things ring in Christmas like a beautiful poinsettia!  But how to keep it that way?  

Actually, the key to keeping poinsettias looking beautiful is to understand their tropical heritage.  Poinsettias originate from the tropics and they thrive in temperatures of the mid to high 20s Celsius.  With that in mind, our winter cold can paralyze, if not kill them.  If a poinsettia gets chilled, it will look wilted like it needs water.  Wilting is actually a poinsettia’s universal way of saying it’s unhappy.  Too hot – wilted.  Too cold – wilted.  To dry – wilted.  Too wet – wilted.  Get the idea?


How are we going to get this plant home toasty warm and happy? 

Let’s dive in…

1. Caring For Poinsettias

First of all, make picking up your poinsettia the last thing on your errand list, so your vehicle is warm and it won’t have to wait anywhere in the cold while other errands are being run and then take it out of your vehicle first when you arrive to your destination.

In transport, make sure that your poinsettia is bundled up!  Poinsettias should be wrapped up in layers, just like we dress in layers to stay warm.

The first layer should be a paper sleeve.  This sleeve will give it the initial layer to protect it from damage and the cold.

And second, a plastic gusset bag should be placed over that to give an additional layer of insulation.  No more of that walking through a parking lot with just an open cellophane sleeve!  There’s nothing to insulate or protect your poinsettia when it just has cellophane around it.

When you have your poinsettia inside; to unwrap it, don’t bother with trying to wiggle it out of the top of the paper sleeve, just tear the sleeve off – it will, again, result in less damage.

Once home safe & warm, you’re up to 90% in poinsettia care success.

Poinsettias are tropical plants, native to Mexico, so their needs are unique but not complex. It is important to keep your poinsettias warm, as a freezing ride home will do them in. You can tell your poinsettia has been chilled by their wilted looking appearance, especially when they appeared robust and beautiful upon leaving the store.

  • To avoid having them get too cold, make sure that they are dressed in layers (like us) for our winter temperatures.
  • The best wrap for them is in a paper sleeve folded at the top with a plastic sealed bag over top of that.
  • Make picking up your poinsettia the last stop of your day so it can go into a warm vehicle and doesn’t have to sit in the cold during other errands.
  • Avoid walking through parking lots with an open plastic sleeve exposing poinsettias to our wintery blasts of cold.
Related:  9+ Fun Facts About Poinsettias [+A Folk Tale!]

Watch our video about keeping your poinsettia warm in transit:

2. How Often To Water Poinsettia

Once your poinsettia is home and unpacked, the next big thing is to not over-water it. Over-watering is a very clear and present danger to poinsettias at this time. Being from the tropics where the soil base is very thin, they are actually a plant that is used to being kept on the drier side.

Wait to water until the soil is dry and the pot weight is light, which should happen about every 4-7 days.

When that happens, water it thoroughly with clear water (fertilizer is unnecessary at this time) so that it drains out from the bottom of the pot.  You can do this in either of 2 ways:

  • Water at the top of the pot, do not water the leaves OR
  • Take the foil cover off of the pot and place the pot in a bowl of about 3” of water to take up moisture from the bottom.

Let it drain thoroughly and check it daily by lifting it up to see how heavy it is.

More poinsettias have died from over-watering than under-watering.

When poinsettias are over watered they look wilted and the temptation is to water them more but then the cycle of over-watering starts. So, whenever your poinsettia looks slightly wilted (we call that flagging), lift the pot to assess its weight and that will give you a clue as to whether it’s over or under in the watering category.

Overwatering poinsettias is a classic mistake. Generally poinsettias only need to be watered every week or even every 10 days, but remember to check them daily – every home is different. To check for water needs, pick up the pot and check its weight – this is how we check in the greenhouse. Once you have watered your poinsettia so water drains out of the holes at the bottom of the pot, you will know how heavy a fully watered poinsettia weighs.  When the pot is very light, it is time to water.

  • When a poinsettia is overwatered it will get a wilted appearance making you think it needs more water and then the cycle of overwatering begins and perpetuates the problem.
  • There is no need for fertilizing because they are in full bloom and don’t need it.
Related:  9+ Fun Facts About Poinsettias [+A Folk Tale!]

Watch our video about watering your poinsettias:

3. Keep Poinsettias Away From Heaters and Drafts

Once you’ve mastered Thing 1 and Thing 2 in caring for your poinsettia, Thing 3 is pretty simple.  The key is to once again remember that poinsettias come from the tropics.

Poinsettias like to be kept comfortably warm – not too hot and not too cold – kind of like Goldilocks’ porridge — maintain your poinsettia at room temperature, in the high teens to mid 20s Celsius and keep it from areas that are too hot or too cold.

Poinsettias will dry it out quickly if they are kept in close proximity to forced air vents and fireplaces.   The flowers and leaves dry out – first they curl and then they get crisp like a potato chip.

Also watch for areas that get too cold.  An area that is notorious for handing out regular blasts of our subzero freshness  is by the front door. We get that it’s  awesome to have that poinsettia splash of color at the front door to greet company, but set it back a little further into the house.  Draughty window ledges and cold window panes offer the same problem.  When a poinsettia is chilled it will look wilted – this is kind of a poinsettia’s universal sign for displeasure –  sometimes they recover but other times they do not, depending on how chilled they get.

Plain & simple, poinsettias do not like cold or hot air blasting at them. Regular room temperature is fine for poinsettias.

  • Avoid cold drafts from windows & outside doors, as poinsettias may get chilled and wilted looking.
  • Do not place your poinsettias near heat registers, as they may get dried out quickly and get crispy leaves.
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Watch our video about the creature comforts of poinsettias: