King crimson: poinsettias, the perfect Christmas plant

..and not just for Christmas of course because poinsettias come in many other hues from cream to green to pink. But we tend to buy them as a yuletide tradition and rightly so because they are inject much needed colour at this time of year

Popular as they are, poinsettias have a reputation as being hard to maintain, when in fact caring for them is straightforward. As with humans, they don't like getting too cold or too hot and they're not keen on glaring sunlight, but other than that they're pretty hardy. One thing, do remember to mist the foliage regularly.

Poinsettias are the second best-selling houseplant in the UK (after the enduringly popular Phalaenopsis orchid), and this year it's estimated w'll be buying some eight million of them over the Christmas period.


Poinsettias, which hail from Mexico, have become the festive houseplant and you can do a lot with them from having a large plant in a pot, to cutting the stems to use in a floral display or incorporating into a wreath. They also make a perfect gift for men and women of all ages.



don't let poinsettias sit in a very cold spot
poinsettias hail from Mexico
 Keeping them healthy is pretty straightforward, just follow these tips:
·         Buy poinsettias from a garden centre or reputable store.  Best not to buy from outside shops or stalls as being kept in lower temperatures will reduce the shelf life of the plant.
·         If possible, check the plant's compost before buying - it should be neither dripping wet nor totally dry.
·         Dense foliage and yellow-green budding flowers between the coloured bracts are a sure sign of quality.
·         Protect your poinsettia from wind and cold and transport it quickly to its warm new home.
·         Keep it in a bright, warm spot (around 20° C). It can be close to a radiator, but not in direct sunlight or near draughts, so keep away from open doors, windows and fireplaces.
·         Be careful not to overwater it ie don't leave it in a pool of water in the bottom of its pot.  Water only when the compost is starting to change colour and become lighter.
·         To use poinsettias as fresh flowers in a vase, cut the bracts, dip the cut end in warm (60 degrees) water for five seconds, then immediately in cold water, and you’re ready to arrange.
Quick facts from the RHS
Common name: poinsettia
Botanical name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Group: houseplant
Flowering time: December to January
Planting time: spring (for repotting)
Height & spread: up to 60cm (2ft) height; 30cm (1ft) spread 
Aspect: bright but filtered light, indoors
Hardiness: Tender
Maintenance: Easy