How to Use Cut Poinsettias in Festive Flower Arrangements

Think outside the foil-wrapped bucket with these poinsettia arrangement ideas—plus, nab tips for buying and caring for these wintry beauties.

When you think of holiday poinsettias, what comes to mind? A pretty red or perhaps white flower in a foil-wrapped pot on the coffee table? If so, get ready for some pleasant surprises. This staple of the holiday gardening season has blossomed into a new range of fresh colors like pink, coral, and orange. Even more exciting: It turns out that poinsettias make excellent cut flowers if you treat them right. We'll show you how to care for poinsettia arrangements—it takes just a bit of prep. Plus get our must-have tips for cutting and decorating with colorful poinsettia bracts.

Pink and red poinsettia in small planter
Marty Baldwin

Poinsettias as Cut Flowers

Once a poinsettia leaves the pot, it's free to spread its wings in new places. For example, you can place several cuttings of various colors in a vase to make a colorful addition to a mantel. Or tuck the stems into floral picks, those water-filled tubes that cut flowers come in, and nestle them into holiday wreaths or Christmas trees. Get our helpful tips for creating a poinsettia flower arrangement that will last up to two weeks.

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Create Grid

Placing lattice on glass
Marty Baldwin

Stretch pieces of tape (any kind will do) across the top of the container to create a grid. The tape will help hold each stem vertically in the vessel.

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Prep the Water

Pouring bleach into measuring cup
Marty Baldwin

Help your cut poinsettias last! Add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach and a spoonful of sugar per two cups of water. The bleach helps slow down bacteria that can cause the stems to rot. While the sugar gives the stems energy they are no longer getting from roots.

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Burn Stems

Using lighter on end of plant
Marty Baldwin

Start by cutting stems with bracts (the colorful modified leaves we think of as the poinsettia's flowers) to the desired length. Remove the lower leaves and quickly burn the end of each stem. Burning helps seal off the sticky sap from leaking into the water.

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Give a Final Spray

Person spraying plants
Marty Baldwin

Once your DIY flower arrangement is complete, give the poinsettia bracts a final mist with hairspray. The hairspray on the leaves helps prevent as much water loss as possible from the bracts.

Poinsettia Color Choices

If you're shopping for poinsettias in supermarkets and the like, you may not have encountered a wide range of colors and patterns found in modern varieties.

Pink poinsettia in gold planter
Marty Baldwin

A visit to a well-stocked florist or garden center will turn up poinsettias that are:

  • Red (of course), ranging from plain old fire-engine to bracts that look like red velvet
  • White or, more accurately, cream
  • Pink, from pale to coral
  • Purplish red (look for the variety 'Plum Pudding')
  • Marbled, speckled, and splashed (usually in shades of red, pink, and cream)
  • Variegated, where the leaves are a mixture of green and cream

In addition to new colors, you'll also find poinsettias with bracts that curve inward, creating a "flower" that resembles a rose (look for 'Winter Rose' in several shades of red, pink, and cream) and miniature poinsettias with smaller than usual bracts.

Poinsettia Shopping Tips

Price doesn't make the plant. Poinsettias are the same, whether purchased at a grocery store or at an upscale florist. At either venue, be sure to choose one that looks healthy, not droopy or wilted. Start with a healthy plant, and the beautiful bracts you snip off for your arrangements will last longer.

Green is good. Plants that have green leaves all the way to the soil line are happy. If lower leaves are missing, the plant is likely stressed.

Find the flowers. The true flowers (the tiny buds at the base of the colored bracts) should be green- or red-tipped, which means the plant is less developed. Avoid plants with yellow pollen on the flowers, they are fully developed and won't last long.

They're fickle. Like Goldilocks, poinsettias don't like to be too hot (near a fireplace) or too cold (at a drafty window).

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