H- Houseplants

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Every gardener has a different opinion about how things should be done. An example is a favorite saying from one of my good gardening friends: "You get three gardeners in one room - fist fight!". While I don't completely agree with Gerry - I know that there is always more than one way to approach a subject. I hope that we can provide you with some useful information, and some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

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Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

          Notes on care

            By The Garden Commando

General:  Poinsettias dislike changes. They do not like to be disturbed, moved, or jostled. They do not like sudden changes in temperature. They do not like being allowed to dry out and they do not like being soggy. They DO NOT respond well to spraying for insects. Insecticidal soaps; botanicals, or regular insecticides cause foliage damage and leaf drop, can even cause continued stunted growth for months after initial application. 


The milky sap exuded by this plant is poisonous (as it is from all types of Euphorbia) and causes a rash. The rash is different for most people, but can be itchy and irritating.  If sap DOES get on you skin, wash immediately with plenty of soap and hot water and bath with a solution of baking soda and water to relieve the itch. Make sure that you handle the plant with gloves when performing cutting or pruning tasks. 

Location: Prefers a nice warm, south window where it can remain - unmoved - during the "flowering time" which is early winter to early spring. 

Misting:  Likes to be misted as often as possible 

Watering: Plenty of water - likes to be kept moist but not soggy. The best method is to place pot in a bowl of water and leave it until you can feel that the soil is moist. You will note that the water level decreases quite quickly if the plant is really thirsty. But beware of poorly potted (bad soil mix) plants, because it may take them a lot longer to take in what moisture they require. 

Temperature:   During colour period, 18c. Sudden drops in temperature may cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop off. 

Pest Treat:    Since the plant dislikes sprays, probably the only three methods you could employ against pest problems would be: 

1.   Use a soil drench of something like Cygone 2-e just after taking plant outdoors for summer, and again a couple of weeks before bringing plant indoors in September. 

       2.   Use sticky traps neat plant to catch flying pests 

3.   Hang a diclorvos hanging pest box (SWAT) close to the plant. If that fails - whitefly are very persistant, encarcerate plant and Swat in large box, cover top with transparent plastic (see below) and leave them like that for 48 hours. All pests should be gone by then, but not sure how plant will react to enclosure treatment. 
After Care

     If you want to either propagate more plants from the mother plant, or take the plant outdoors for the summer, or get it to "flower" again the following winter, or any of the above, the first step is the same: 

     1.   After the coloured leaves fall and the floret bracts drop off, (or in March) cut the plant back to  about 1/3 or about 3-4 inches in height. 

     Note:     When you cut back, make sure that you treat the wounds with something.  Muller-Idzerda, in 100 Indoor Plants in Colour, suggests using powdered charcoal. 

Making it "re-flower"

If you plan to simply keep the plant indoors and start it again next winter, 

2.       Place pot in a cool, dry location and allow the soil to dry. 

3.       Although pot soil is drying out, mist cut back plant to prevent
          drying out of the stem.

4.   In April, remove plant from old pot, shake off old soil carefully. 

5.   Repot in  a mixture of 1 part leaf-mould, 1 part clay, and 1 part
    well-rotted manure. Pot should be slightly larger. 

6.   Bring plant out to its original indoor spot again 

7.   Continue misting, but now begin watering gradually. 

8.   Feed every two weeks. 

9.   When plant shows signs of healthy growth, increase fertilizer
    applications to weekly, and of course, increase water. 

10.   In mid-June, move it outdoors to a warm, sheltered position on patio
    or in garden. Continue to mist the leaves and cut back fertilizer
    to every two weeks. 

11.  Bring it indoors again in September, and put it back in its old
    position. It wants to be in temperatures of about 20C at this time,
    and must be misted.

At this point the light exposure is trickly. After October, any additional light exposure will likely prevent the formation of the flower buds from forming and the colourful bracts from developing. None of my books had any suggestions about how you would keep plant in same spot, but protect it from additional light! My own contribution is: 

Make a special Poinsettia cover (sort of like a Budgie cover). It would have to be stiff enough to stand up by itself and large enough to suround the plant without jostling the leaves. You could probably construct such a device using cardboard from old boxes. For example, you could get a large cardboard box, with the bottom still secure; cover it with some nice wall paper, fabric or whatever, and pop this over Mr. Difficult at six p.m. every night through October, and November. You will be able to see if the flower heads are coming and if there is any sign of bracts, then probably in early to mid December, the plant can be exposed to normal household light again. 


If you really liked the original plant and would like to make more, you can follow step 1 (way above) and save the pieces you cut off with which to make tip cuttings. Treat the tip cuttings at the base with powdered charcoal and then with root hormone (the one for green cuttings, not hardwood). Place tip cuttings in a sharp sand mixed with perlite. Place cutting tray in a nice warm (18C), but shady spot (obviously, if indoors, a nice warm but out of direct sun spot). Mist cuttings daily and make sure that sand stays damp but not soggy.  When cuttings show signs of being well established and healthy new growth is apparent, you can pot them up. Be extremely careful when transplanting the cuttings; the roots are very brittle. You can begin the propagation from when you first cut the plants back in March, right through until as late as August, from new shoots from the old plant. 

Putting it in the Garden

Again, follow step 1, and cut the plant back when the bracts fall or in March whichever comes first. Let it rest for a couple of months in the cool dry somewhere; get it going again in April in a nice warm spot, then put it outdoors in mid June. 

You can either keep it in a pot and use it as a terrace plant, or you can plant it directly in the garden.  Pick a protected, sunny spot and make sure it gets plenty of water.



The following texts were used for references for the material provided on Poinsettias.

Author/Editor Book/Text Publisher/Date
Fleming, R.A. Ed. Your Guide to Growing Houseplants and Caring for Gift Plants Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Guelph. Ontario. 1981
Muller-Idzerda, A.C. 100 Indoor Plants in Colour. 100 Indoor Plants in Colour. 7th ed.
Blandford Press Ltd. London, England. 1973
Smith, Geoffrey Mr. Smith's Flower Garden British Broadcasting Corp. London, England. 1976

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This page was updated December 29/99 

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