In the Advent season it is indispensable for many: the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). Most poinsettias only have a short lifespan because they die if watered incorrectly. This is how you properly care for the spurge plant.

The right time

Normally, indoor plants are watered regularly and moderately – that is, less rather than more. It is precisely this watering behavior that the poinsettia does not like because it is used to short and heavy rain showers from its Mexican homeland. For you, this means watering less often, but watering more heavily. The right time for a new watering has come when the substrate is still slightly damp at a depth of about two centimeters. To check this, press your index finger or thumb into the soil: if you find this difficult and the soil feels dry, the right moment has come to water the poinsettia. Carry out the finger test at regular intervals so as not to miss the moment – the poinsettia must not dry out either.

Note: Regular finger testing is particularly important in a location close to heating, as the soil dries out particularly quickly due to the dry heating air.

Use low lime water

The poinsettia is generally a very sensitive houseplant. In addition to waterlogging, drought and incorrect watering, the poinsettia also does not tolerate lime. For this reason you should not use fresh tap water, but leave it for at least a day (so that the limescale settles on the floor) or even decalcify it. The latter is important if you live in a region with very hard tap water. Soft rainwater is best anyway. However, not everyone can easily collect this. In addition, the irrigation water must not be cold under any circumstances – do you like to take an ice-cold shower? – but ideally has a lukewarm temperature. Don’t forget: poinsettias are subtropical plants that don’t tolerate cold.

Note: This sensitivity to cold is fatal to many poinsettias when they are carried home through the winter cold after purchase. Always protect the plants!

Pour poinsettia – instructions

When the right time to water the poinsettia has come and you have descaled the irrigation water, give your plant the vital moisture according to these instructions:

  • do a finger test
  • Water the poinsettia when the substrate has dried well
  • water so that the water stands on the substrate
  • let it soak in, don’t add water
  • After 20 minutes, pour away any water that is left standing on the saucer or in the saucer
  • optionally put water directly into the saucer or planter

Always water the poinsettia in one go, not several times in quick succession. Allow enough time between the individual waterings so that the substrate dries in between – but it must not dry out completely! The dry soil quickly soaks up moisture due to the capillary effect.

Amount of water required

How much water your poinsettia – as the spurge plant was also known in the past – really needs cannot be said in general terms. The amount of water required and also the watering frequency depend on both the size of the plant and its location. Perhaps this rule of thumb will help you determine the right amount and frequency: Like all spurge plants, poinsettias need a lot less water than you think. Most people practically water these houseplants to death. Therefore, only give your specimen half the amount of water that you would normally/feel to give.

Avoid these mistakes

The most common mistake when caring for the poinsettia is simply that it is watered too much. You can prevent this by keeping an eye on your plant: If the green leaves turn yellow and seem to be drying up, then you must not continue watering the poinsettia! As paradoxical as it may sound at first, the plant dies of thirst because it has received far too much water. The reason for this is that it is actually insufficiently supplied with moisture, since the fine roots rot due to waterlogging and can therefore no longer transfer water to the plant parts above ground. So for yellow leaves you should:

  • pot the plant
  • remove moist soil
  • cut off rotten roots
  • repot in fresh substrate
  • at first not at all
  • and water significantly less in the future

On the other hand, if the leaves simply fall off without turning yellow first, then Euphorbia pulcherrima (“the beautiful spurge”) was most likely in the draft. Place the plant in a less draughty and lighter place, as far away as possible from a window that you often open for ventilation purposes.

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