‘Ideal’ temperature for poinsettia houseplant during winter

Learn how to care for Christmas cactus and poinsettias

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Poinsettias are widely available in supermarkets and online and they bring a splash of colour into homes during the winter months. Although they can be quite easy to look after, owners must take extra steps to ensure their houseplant is “happy” and “healthy” through the festive season. Morag Hill, Co-Founder of The Little Botanical, has shared an easy care guide for poinsettia owners.

According to the expert, poinsettias like to be kept moist but not soggy. It is important the top layer of soil is drying out in between waterings because letting them sit in water can cause root rot. Root rot is a relatively common houseplant disease which will kill plants if left untreated.

The houseplant expert explained: “The ideal temperature for your poinsettia is between 13C and 16C. They are sensitive to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, so make sure you choose a spot out of draughts and away from radiators.

“They will enjoy a bright spot away from direct sunlight.” Poinsettias also “thrive” in humid conditions, meaning they are great plants for naturally humid rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens.

According to the expert, making sure the houseplant has great humid conditions can “extend the flowering time” for the plant, meaning owners should also mist it daily. Morag added: “This will mean you can enjoy the vibrant, colourful display for longer.”

To mist houseplants, put some tepid water into a spray bottle and spray around the roots and leaves of a plant, making sure to avoid the flowers, if the plant has them. Do this job in the morning so the plant has enough time to absorb the mist throughout the day.

The plant pro noted: “Your poinsettia will lose its leaves if it is exposed to sudden changes in temperature. To avoid this, make sure you place your plant in a spot that has a constant temperature of 13C to 16C, away from radiators and out of draughts.

“A lack of water may also cause your poinsettia to wilt. Although poinsettias don’t like a lot of water, it is important not to let them dry out completely. Check the soil regularly and give them a drink when the top layer of soil is dry.”

Britons with pets should also avoid this plant altogether because it is toxic to cats and dogs. If a leaf or stem on the plant is broken, it will leak a milky sap which can be an irritant to humans and animals.

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Morag added: “With the right care, your poinsettia will last up to six weeks – plenty of time to see you through the Christmas season. However, you can choose to have a go at keeping them alive throughout the year and aim for a fresh bloom of colour for next Christmas.”

If you fancy keeping your poinsettia into the New Year, houseplant owners need to prune it in April, cutting it back to around 10cm and keeping it in a temperature of about 13C. Then, repot it in early May, allowing it to continue to grow over the summer.

During the summer months, a poinsettia will appreciate a temperature of 15C to 18C, along with lots of light. The houseplant expert explained: “During the summer your plant will be completely green and bushy and the change to the red or white colour that we associate with these plants is stimulated by the shorter days as the seasons change.

“To encourage a good strong colour in time for Christmas, ensure your plant gets a maximum of 12 hours of daylight from September onwards. This may mean having to bring them into a dark room after 12 hours of daylight during September.

“Feed it once a month with a potassium-rich fertiliser. Whether you want to make the poinsettia the centrepiece of your Christmas table or bring a touch of festive charm to your living space or office, The Little Botanical have a range of beautifully potted poinsettias in bespoke ceramics to suit every taste, budget and interior.”

While poinsettias are sold in supermarkets and garden centres, it may not always be best to purchase from these retailers. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), said Britons should take note of where the shop has their poinsettia for sale.

They explained: “Avoid those outdoors on the pavement or in a draughty, cold shop as these chilly conditions will often cause the colourful bracts to drop off within days of your purchase. 

“Where possible, buy from a warm greenhouse at a garden centre of where they have arrived freshly inside stores such as supermarkets and DIY centres.”

Another popular festive plant is the Christmas cactus, which comes in various different colours including pink and white. The houseplant has nothing to do with the Christmas tradition but due to its flowering period from November to January, it coined the name.

Chris Bonnett from GardeningExpress.co.uk explained: “They will live happily humid environments like kitchens and bathrooms and during the summer months, when the risk of frost has gone, they can be placed outside.

“This will help to ripe new growth and encourages flowering.” Once placed in its position, owners should try to avoid moving the plant because when it is in bud, they may start to drop. 

During the flowering period, make sure to only water when the top inch or two of compost is completely dry. To avoid overwatering, consider misting the plant a few times a week, or placing it on a pebble-filled tray of water.

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