How to Plant and Grow Poinsettia

Learn How to Grow Poinsettias and Keep Them Alive All Season—and Beyond.

Poinsettias are everywhere during the holidays, and for good reason! They're beautiful, festive, and easy to take care of. You can't go wrong with classic red ones, but each year it seems there are more interesting varieties to choose from. When you're looking to add these popular plants to your garden, there are a few tricks to know about how to plant and care for poinsettias that will last through all your merry-making and beyond. If you're willing to put in the work of keeping them alive until next year, it's even possible to get your poinsettias to rebloom in time for another holiday season.

Poinsettias might seem short-lived because they usually start dropping their brightly-colored bracts (the modified leaves that often are mistaken for petals) and looking sparse soon after the holidays are over, but modern varieties last much longer than they did even a few years ago. Some can hold their color for months instead of just a few weeks.

The sap of poinsettias is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. All parts of poinsettias are only mildly toxic to people. The sticky sap can be irritating.

Large grouping of multicolored poinsettias
Jason Donnelly

Where to Plant Poinsettia

Poinsettias are tropical plants that hail from southern Mexico and Central America. Plant these warmth-loving plants outside in USDA zones 9-11 in an area where they receive six to eight hours of indirect sunlight. Poinsettias grow best in well-draining soil that has been enriched with organic matter. They are often grown as houseplants in cooler areas or grown outdoors for the summer and then moved inside before the temperature falls to 50°F. Freezing temperatures kill poinsettias.

The south side of the house is an excellent location, but any side is acceptable as long as the wind is blocked. Make sure the area receives no artificial light from street lights, floods, or porch lights. Poinsettias need darkness at night; lights interfere with the blooming cycle.

How and When to Plant Poinsettia

After the danger of frost has passed in spring and the temperature remains above 50°F, plant nursery-grown poinsettia plants in a prepared garden bed.

Before planting, cut the poinsettia foliage back by half. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the container. Remove the plant from the container and put it in the hole so that it sits at the same level as it did in the container. Backfill the hole with soil, pressing down with your hands to remove air pockets. Water the plant well. In the garden, poinsettias can grow larger than the poinsettias in the store around the holidays, so space them 2-3 feet apart.

When planting poinsettias in pots, choose containers with excellent drainage and fill them with a good-quality potting soil with added organic matter. The containers can summer outside in most areas but must be moved inside for the winter in any area where the temperature drops below 50°F, so keep the containers small enough to be easily moved.

Poinsettia Care Tips


Poinsettias grow best in six to eight hours of bright, indirect light.

Soil and Water

Poinsettias need well-draining soil enriched with organic matter for the best growth and blooms. Water as needed to keep the soil damp but not wet.

Temperature and Humidity

When it's colder than 50°F outside, poinsettias suffer damage. Freezing temperatures kill poinsettias. These tropical plants enjoy warmth and humidity in the 50-75 percent range.


In areas where poinsettias grow outdoors year-round, fertilizing the plants with a single application of 2-4 inches of compost or well-rotted manure in spring is sufficient. For container-grown plants, apply a balanced organic fertilizer, such as a 4-4-4 NPK formulation, every three to four weeks during the growing season, following the product instructions. Stop fertilizing when the plant goes into dormancy.


In early spring, prune the poinsettia back by one-third. During the growing season, pinch it to promote full growth.

Potting and Repotting

To keep a poinsettia houseplant happy, place it in bright, indirect light. Water regularly so that the soil stays evenly moist; if the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, it's time for a drink, but don't let roots sit in excess water or they can start to rot. This is especially important if you put the poinsettia inside a larger decorative container (known as a cachepot) that doesn't have drainage holes. Place a layer of small rocks on the bottom of the cachepot to hold the poinsettia above any standing water.

Keep the temperature between 60°F-70°F, and watch out for chilly drafts around windows. If your plant is close to a draft or exposed to one when outside doors are opened, the cold can damage the leaves.

When it outgrows its container, transplant the poinsettia into a pot that's one size larger using fresh, well-draining potting soil amended with organic matter.

Pests and Problems

Like many other garden plants, poinsettias can attract aphids and mealybugs, both of which can be treated with a strong stream of water or an application of insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Poinsettias growing in warm and humid environments may develop bacterial leaf spot. The best way to avoid this is to space the plants for good air circulation and water them at ground level rather than watering the foliage.

How to Propagate Poinsettia

The best way to propagate poinsettia plants is with stem cuttings from a mature plant. (If the plant is patent-protected, it shouldn't be propagated at all.)

Put on gloves to protect your skin from the sap of the plant. Fill seed-starting flats (with clear plastic humidity domes) or small pots with a seed-starting mix or a mixture of perlite and vermiculite. The flat or pot must hold at least 3 inches of planting medium. Poke holes in the medium where you plan to put the cuttings.

Cut 3- to 4-inch sections of stem with leaf nodes from the plant's branches and remove the leaves from the bottom half of each cutting. The leaf nodes are where the roots will emerge. Dip the bottom half of the cuttings in rooting hormone, covering the nodes, and insert them into the holes in the planting medium. Firm the medium around the bottom of the cutting. Mist the leaves of the cuttings and put the humidity dome on the flat or place a clear plastic bag over individual pots. Place the containers in a warm area with bright, indirect light (not direct sun) and mist daily.

It takes a couple of weeks for the plants to start making roots and another four weeks before they are ready to be transplanted.

Types of Poinsettia

There are well over 100 poinsettia varieties, though you usually won't see such an overwhelming number of choices in stores. Here are some of the most common types of poinsettias.

Solid Colors

J’Adore Hot Pink Poinsettia
Jason Donnelly

Plants with solid red bracts are the most popular during the holiday season, but you can find plenty of other fun colors, including pink, white, orange, yellow, and even purple.

Marble Poinsettias

Christmas Beauty Marble Poinsettia
Jason Donnelly

These plants have gorgeous two-tone bracts that usually feature a darker color, such as red or pink in the middle, fading to lighter shades of yellow or cream around the edges.

Jingle Poinsettias

Superba Glitter Poinsettia
Jason Donnelly

Also called glitter poinsettias, these varieties usually have bracts that are one solid color, like red or pink, with white or cream flecks and splotches. These plants are especially eye-catching alongside classic, all-red poinsettias.

Rose Poinsettias

Harlequin Red Poinsettia
Jason Donnelly

Rather than the straight, pointed bracts, rose poinsettias have bracts that curl slightly back and under, making them look like clusters of roses in full bloom. You're most likely to find this type in traditional poinsettia red, but plants with white and pink rose-shape bracts are out there, too.

How to Get Poinsettia Houseplants to Rebloom

Poinsettias houseplants are relatively easy to keep alive during the short holiday season, but getting them to rebloom next year is a more challenging undertaking. After the colorful bracts fade and fall off the plant after the holidays, cut back the stems just below the flowers. You can keep growing them like a houseplant, but in the spring, when the temperatures at night are regularly above 50°F, place your poinsettias outside. Choose a spot that gets bright, indirect light. You should notice some new growth, but they'll stay green all summer.

At the beginning of June, prune back the plants so they're only about 6 inches tall, and repot them in a slightly larger container with fresh potting soil. Feed them about once a month with half-strength, balanced liquid fertilizer. In August, pinch off about an inch from each growing tip to encourage the plants to branch out. If you have any pots outdoors, bring them inside at the end of the summer before overnight temperatures fall below 60°F.

For about eight weeks, the plants need about 14-15 hours of uninterrupted darkness every day and nighttime temperatures around 65°F. This is the trick for triggering new flowers and for the bracts to turn red. Overnight, the plants can't get any light at all; even the crack under a door is enough to disrupt them. Placing them in a closet reduces the amount of light, but to completely eliminate it, cover them with a box or a blanket. Cover the plants every day around 5 p.m., and uncover them in the morning between 7-8 a.m. During the day, make sure they're still getting plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.

If you're successful, you should start to see the poinsettias developing color by early to mid-November. After the bracts start turning red, you can end the ritual of covering them up every night and start caring for them like normal through the holiday season.

Decorating with poinsettias always sets a festive mood, and they're relatively low-maintenance houseplants (if you can remember to water your fresh Christmas tree, you can keep a poinsettia alive). They're especially fun to pair with other holiday-themed indoor plants like red succulents and Christmas cacti or arrange with greens, berries, and baubles. With so many different varieties of poinsettias to choose from, you can create colorful displays to coordinate with just about any style.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I extend the bloom time of a poinsettia houseplant?

    Putting the poinsettia in a room at 55°F-60°F at night extends the bloom time. Avoiding temperature fluctuations helps too.

  • Do poinsettia plants have a dormant period?

    In general, poinsettias go dormant from January through March, when they drop many of their leaves and bracts. Decrease watering until the soil goes completely dry and the plant enters dormancy. If it is a houseplant, put it in a cool dark location. When new growth begins in spring, cut the plant back to 4-6 inches tall.

Was this page helpful?
Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Poinsettia. ASPCA

  2. Are Poinsettias Poisonous? National Capital Poison Center.

  3. Euphorbia pulchirrima. North Carolina State University Toolbox.

Related Articles