Gardening with Mother Evelyn: Pointers for poinsettia success


You buy your beautiful poinsettia and you want it to look gorgeous all through the holidays and maybe for at least a few weeks afterwards. Will it happen?

Here are Mother Evelyn’s very best pointers for poinsettia success:

• Buy a good poinsettia to start with. If you start out with a poinsettia that has been sitting in a shipping box for a week or two, it will look good when you buy it. But it is already on its way down, because poinsettias do not like being caged up in the dark.

• Do not buy a poinsettia that has leaves already falling off or flowers that have botrytis rotting spots on them. Poinsettias where the little yellow true flowers have already gone by and it looks a little rotten in the center — stay away!

• Buy from a reputable source where you can talk to someone who knows which poinsettia is best for your spot. Example: You want to put your poinsettias outside in the open — make sure the plants are short enough so they won’t fall over in the wind. Ask for poinsettias that take the outdoors best.

• It’s OK to bargain-hunt here because Mother Nature will make the plants look a bit ragged anyway. Bury your pots halfway down to make them last longer.

Now you have started with good plants — the rest is up to you!

Too dry or too wet — that’s also the kiss of death. But how is the poor poinsettia owner to know?

Test the soil with your fingers or establish a regular watering schedule. Crushed ice is easy and waters slowly.

The smaller the pot size, the more often the plants need to be watered. Lift the pot and feel the weight. Dry pots are light and the soil is dry to the touch.

Too dry: If you let your plants dry to the point that the leaves are really wilted and drooping, you will lose all those leaves. Trust me. They are already dying — it just takes a few more days for them to fall off.

Too wet: You are trying to be good, so you leave your pot sitting in water. This is like drowning the roots. Roots that have drowned are like house plumbing that is all clogged up. The water cannot move through, so your plant dies a slow and painful death.

Good light: The best spots are where you get good, bright light, but not too much of the hot sun. To be honest, I have put poinsettias in dark corners and light corners and I can’t see much difference. Just don’t place them in front of hot air vents, or on top of hot TVs.

What to expect from a poinsettia going forward?

There is a natural progression in poinsettias, just as in all living things. The first parts of your poinsettia to go are the little yellow true flowers. The red parts that we call the flower are really modified leaves, also called bracts.

The next natural step is to lose some of the bottom leaves. Not all of them, but some.

Your poinsettia blooms should last well through the holidays, and it is not at all unusual for them to remain healthy until Valentine’s Day. (No, they are not a substitute for fresh flowers for your honey on Valentine’s Day.)

Visit for more handy hints, such as how to make poinsettias bloom next year, and decorating ideas.