How to Care for a Poinsettia so It Lasts Throughout the Entire Christmas Period

With their gorgeous crimson-colored star-shaped leaves, the poinsettia is widely considered the go-to houseplant for the Christmas season.

Poinsettias are closely associated with the holidays because of a Mexican legend.

The most common version starts with a girl called Pepita, who was unhappy she did not have a gift to leave for the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.

Her cousin attempted to console her and said Jesus would love any present from her, even the smallest one.

Lacking the money to buy a real gift, Pepita picked a bouquet of weeds while walking towards church.

When she arrived, she left the weeds at the bottom of the nativity scene, when they suddenly transformed into beautiful red flowers.

The poinsettia has ever since been known as "Flores de Noche Buena," translated as: "Flowers of the Holy Night."

But while euphorbia pulcherrima is renowned for making wonderful festive centerpieces, the plant also has a reputation for being a little difficult to look after.

Fortunately, this short guide can help the pretty poinsettia survive long past twelfth night.

Keep Them Warm

Poinsettia care
Poinsettias are closely associated with the holidays because of a Mexican legend Stars for Europe

Dr Suzanne Lux, the campaign coordinator for poinsettia growers' association Stars for Europe, believes it is always important to remember just how sensitive the plants are to temperature.

She told Newsweek: "The poinsettia growing experts at Stars for Europe say the golden rule when it comes to caring for poinsettias is not to let them get too cold, but ensure they are kept at a minimum temperature of 15 to 22 degrees Celsius.

"Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Guatemala, so the cold British winter is more than they can bear. It is best not to buy them from an outdoor stand or if you can see that they've been left close to a doorway or open window in the garden centre, florist or supermarket.

"Poinsettias are so sensitive that they can easily be damaged during transportation, so ensure they are properly wrapped in paper at the shop, without leaving any foliage exposed to the elements.

"You would ideally put it inside a bag for safe measure, as even a few minutes of exposure to cold air in the depth of winter can terminally damage the leaves."

Keep Them Away from Drafts

The Poinsettia
The poinsettia is renowned for making wonderful festive centerpieces Stars for Europe

Dr Lux suggests once you arrive back at home, the plants should be kept in a warm and sheltered spot, well away from cold drafts.

She said: "Poinsettias prefer a light spot rather than full shade, but out of the harsh rays of direct sunlight.

"A good test is to see what kind of shadow your hand makes when you put it into the spot you have in mind for your poinsettia.

"No shadow means the places is too shaded, a dark black shadow means the sun is too bright, but a soft gray shadow is perfect."

Avoid Overwatering

Poinsettias
It is always important to remember just how sensitive poinsettias are to temperature Stars for Europe

The campaign coordinator for the poinsettia growers association also revealed people should take care not to over-water, or let allow the plants to stand in soggy soil.

She said: "Allow the compost to just start drying out before giving your plant a light watering, taking care not to soak them. Overwatering can cause poinsettias to be blighted by gray mold and also makes them vulnerable to attack from common pests like mealybugs and scale insects.

"Poinsettias also like to be fed—in this case monthly with a high potassium, low nitrogen fertilizer."

poinsettias
People should take care not to over-water or let allow poinsettias to stand in soggy soil Stars for Europe