How to Care for Winter Rose (Poinsettia)?
Native to Mexico and flowering in the winter season, the Poinsettia is popular during Christmas and it’s often offered as a gift or bought as a decorative plant for the festive season.
Although it’s considered a one-off seasonal plant, the winter rose is actually a perennial plant that will bloom again if it’s well taken care of.
As for the shrub’s name, its namesake is U.S. Ambassador Joel Robert Poinsett, who is believed to have brought the plant into the U.S. from Mexico.
Below, I cover the requirements of the winter rose that will help you keep the shrub alive and thriving past the festive season.
Size & Growth
The winter rose has the appearance of a shrub that will spread to about 24 inches. Its height varies between 8 to 24 inches.
The Poinsettias are notoriously slow growers and the ones you get as a gift or buy from the garden center are already fully grown.
Typically, they’ll need regrowing for a full year if you want a repeat blooming.
Once in bloom, the bracts can last a couple of months. The modified leaves feature a yellowish cluster in the center, which are actually the blooms of the winter rose.
To get the best results, position this plant in a location where it gets plenty of bright light, but without exposing it to direct sunlight.
Light exposure that’s direct and too strong will cause leaf scorching, destroying the beautiful foliage of your winter rose.
Poinsettias are sensitive to watering but also underwatering. On the one hand, overwatering can cause root rot, but under-watering will lead to wilting, droopy leaves.
It’s difficult to assess the moisture level of the soil simply by looking at the plant. You need to poke your finger into the soil and feel if it’s moist or dry.
According to some recommendations, you should allow around 50% of the soil to dry before watering your winter rose. Having tried this, I found that my Poinsettias started to wilt a bit, so maybe allow for the top 2 inches of soil to dry before watering again.
If the potting medium still feels moist after the previous watering session, wait for a few more days before reaching for the watering can.
Don’t water the plant from above, you don’t want water to get on the leaves, because it will eventually cause fungal problems. Water around the base only.
The best soil type for the poinsettia is a porous soil that’s loose and drains quickly. Slightly acidic or acidic soil is preferable.
You can buy commercially available mixes or create your own poinsettia soil mix. Simply mix one part perlite with two parts peat moss and three parts potting soil.
This mix will be nutritious and loose, yet it will allow water to percolate without retaining too much or too little moisture.
Temperature & Humidity
Despite being ubiquitous in the winter, these plants have no tolerance to cold or frost. Poinsettias should be kept at temperatures between 60°F to 70°F during the day and 55°F during the night. In the USA, the plant is hardy in zones 9-11.
It’s important to ensure constant temperatures within the accepted range. If the temperature is too high, the plant’s leaves will wilt and fall off. Similarly, low temperatures will induce tissue damage.
Indoors, you should watch out for heating vents, fans, cold drafts, or other sources of too much heat to too much cold.
The winter rose is not particular about humidity levels and thrives at average indoor humidity.
If you don’t plan on regrowing the winter rose after the holiday season, you don’t have to bother with fertilizing.
If, however, you do want your poinsettia to survive past the festive season, I recommend using a general-purpose plant fertilizer monthly after the winter rose has finished blooming.
Use a good quality, water soluble fertilizer but withheld fertilizing when the plant is in bloom. Winter roses are not heavy feeders, so a little fertilizer can go a long way.
If you’re planning on keeping the poinsettia alive to have it bloom again in the next season, you need to trim it down in May so that only about 4 inches of stem remain above the soil.
Potting & Repotting
Poinsettias are usually sold in 8 to 10-inch pot sizes. If you’re trimming the plant down in May you either need to repot it or keep it in the same pot, but then replace the potting mix with a fresh one.
Once repotted, water deeply, then water normally going forward to prevent root rot issues or underwatering issues.
With fertilizing, replacing the potting mix and continuing with a correct watering schedule, your poinsettias will regrow and start blooming again just in time for the festive season.
How to Propagate Poinsettia?
Although poinsettias don’t easily lend themselves to propagation, it is possible to propagate from stem cuttings. But be advised that it’s not very easy and higher success rates are observed when stem cuttings are rooted in greenhouses.
First, you should harvest stem cuttings from healthy new growths. Old growths that have just produced flowers are not suitable candidates for stem cutting propagation.
You should harvest stem cuttings from the new growths that emerge after the poinsettias have been cut back at the end of the blooming season.
Take cuttings of about 4 inches and dab their ends in rooting hormone. They should also have 2-3 mature leaves on them.
Put in moist potting mix and keep in a warm and bright location, but out of direct sunlight. The brighter the light, the better, but direct light will cause wilting, undermining your efforts to root the cuttings.
At about 3-4 weeks, the cuttings should already have produced roots and can be moved to their final pots.
Winter roses are abundant as the winter holidays approach. But not many know that they can be regrown to flower again in the next season.
Poinsettias are fussy about their watering and don’t tolerate temperature fluctuations, but other than these, you can do a good job at keeping them alive if you follow my trimming and repotting recommendations.