Gifting Holiday Plants: Secret To Keeping Live Poinsettia Plants Healthy

By Laura Miller | December 6, 2020
Image by alicjane
by Laura Miller
December 6, 2020

Poinsettia flowers are the quintessential Christmas plant. Coincidentally, they also happen to be my favorite. That wasn’t always the case, however. There was a time when I would cringe whenever well-meaning family and friends presented me with a holiday poinsettia as a gift.

Gifting Holiday Plants

Poinsettias are the natural choice when it comes to holiday gifts for plant lovers. But for me, not so much. I love all living things, plants included. So giving me a poinsettia as a gift was essentially dooming an innocent plant to death. In truth, most never made it to Christmas day.

The sad part is, I really was trying to provide proper poinsettia plant care. The most common cause of their early demise was improper watering. I’d get busy with the hustle and bustle of the holidays and neglect to water my poinsettia plants. Its poor little leaves would wilt and droop. Then I’d try and “fix” my oversight. Death would come quickly and I’d be left with a stick from which hung brittle leaves – with the pot still bearing the bright metallic foil wrap.

Poinsettia Plant Care

It took a few years, and quite a few innocent plants, before I got the hang of poinsettia plant care. Not only have I been able to keep live poinsettia plants healthy during the Christmas season, but I’ve also kept them going from year to year. What’s my secret? I’ve learned to listen to my gifted poinsettia friends. Here’s what they’ve told me:

  • We scream when we’re thirsty. Not literally, of course, but the signs of impending water deprivation are visible long before tell-tale signs of wilt appear. A hydrated poinsettia has firm stems and stiff leaves. The slightest droop to the foliage means it’s past time to check soil moisture levels. I do this by sticking my finger into the top inch (2.5 cm.) of soil. If it’s dry, I water.
  • Help, you’re drowning us. Live poinsettia plants don’t like wet feet and will tell you when the soil is retaining too much moisture by dropping their leaves. I prevent this problem by removing the metallic foil wrap and setting the potted poinsettia plant inside a decorative Christmas planter or basket. (If using the latter, choose one with a plastic liner.) Two inches (5 cm.) of gravel in the bottom keeps the potted poinsettia dry.
  • We crave sunlight. If these sun-loving plants are destined to survive past the holiday season, they need energy from the sun. After the holidays, my poinsettia plants seem happiest in a western window where they receive bright, indirect light most of the day and a few hours of direct late day sun. Pale green growth is an indication that poinsettias need more light.
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