How to Grow Poinsettias

Red poinsettia flowers
Pierre-Yves Babelon / Getty Images

There's nothing like growing your own poinsettia plants instead of buying new ones every holiday season. While it is easier to buy these plants fully grown and at peak color, gardeners up to the challenge will enjoy the slow progress that comes with starting a plant from seed or cuttings.

Poinsettias are closely associated with the holidays, and many people would be surprised to know that these shrubs are native to Mexico. Left growing in the wild, they can reach heights of 10 to 15 feet and resemble a small tree. While some gardeners growing in warm climates might be able to replicate these results outdoors, most of us have a simpler goal: Grow poinsettias even after the holiday season has ended—potentially year-round. Below is your how-to-grow guide for this popular and familiar houseplant.

Botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima
Common name  Poinsettia 
Sun exposure  Full sun to part shade
Soil type Well-draining and loamy
Soil pH  Neutral to acidic
Bloom time  Winter 
Flower color  Red, white, pink, yellow, purple, green, and multicolored 
Hardiness zone  9-11 (USDA) 
Toxicity Toxic to dogs and cats

How to Plant Poinsettias

It's best to get started with a strong poinsettia plant. However, there are some other methods you can try when growing poinsettias.

Growing From Seed

Growing from seed isn’t how most gardeners start poinsettias, but it can be a fun challenge. The bright red “flowers” are actually called bracts, and if you follow the bract down on a poinsettia plant, you’ll see the real yellow flowers, where seed pods develop. If poinsettias are in the wild, natural pollination occurs to produce seed pods. Inside as houseplants, poinsettias need your help with the pollination process.

Once you have the seeds from those pods, they need a few months in a cool, dark location before you plant them. You can also buy seeds online. Follow instructions on the seed packet to sprout a new plant.

Growing From Cutting

Start with a healthy plant, and then take a cutting at least a few inches long with a few mature leaves. Dip the end of the cutting in the rooting hormone. Then, place it in quality soil (an indoor soil mix would be good) with a pre-formed hole. Secure with soil, water it, and place it in a bright location that doesn’t get direct sun. Wait a few weeks for roots to take hold. Keep your cutting watered, but don’t overdo it. After a few weeks, give the cutting a gentle tug to see if you feel roots in place. You might also try to do a few cuttings at once in hopes that half might take root. This isn’t a guaranteed process and might take a little trial and error. 

Starting or Transplanting Existing Plants

For existing poinsettias—perhaps leftover from the holidays—the process is simple. Repot them as needed. You might not need to do this at all if the plant is already in a good container where your plant has lots of room. Make sure to remove any yellow or wilted leaves. Then, keep it as a houseplant and follow our poinsettia plant care tips. The plant will also need to go through a dark, dormant period, detailed below. If you time this right, you’ll have gorgeous plants for the next holiday season. 

Poinsettia's Dark Period

To achieve peak poinsettia color for the holidays, you need to prep the way they do at nurseries or garden centers for the holiday shopping rush. Start the "dark period" eight weeks before you want to display the plants. They need at least 12-14 hours of uninterrupted darkness every day for about two months. Basements, under cabinets, and even cardboard boxes are all techniques gardeners will use to get that many hours of dark. Don’t skip this part or your plant won’t ever “bloom” like you expect.

Growing Poinsettia Outside

If you have the right growing conditions (Zones 9-11), you can move your poinsettia plant outside and grow it as a shrub. Even if you don’t live in a warm climate, you can still move your container-growing plant outside in warmer months; just make sure to bring it back indoors and go through the dark period in the fall to achieve “blooms” again.

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias are easy to grow with the right conditions. Review our general care tips to keep container-grown poinsettias going.

Light, Soil, and Nutrients

Poinsettia nearby the window
imagenavi / Getty Images

Poinsettias thrive with around six to eight hours of light per day, so find it a sunny spot or windowsill to place them on. Just keep in mind that they don’t like direct, relentless sun because the leaves can easily burn. 

A general indoor soil mix and also an all-purpose indoor houseplant fertilizer will also help poinsettias grow. Follow instructions for fertilizing (making sure not to overdo it) and water well after each fertilization.


In its native environment, poinsettias are accustomed to drier conditions. They can benefit from this indoors, as well. In spring and summer, water thoroughly but infrequently, allowing them to completely dry out before watering again.

Temperature and Humidity

Poinsettias tend to like warmer temperatures, between 65 and 75 degrees F, with humid conditions. Cooler temperatures are fine when the plants are in their dark period.

Common Pests and Diseases

When growing poinsettias inside, there is a chance that you'll experience pesky obstacles, from whiteflies or gnats to root rot or powdery mildew. If you notice your plant with spotted or wilted bracts or insects on the underside, the best thing you can do is be quick to respond. Take photos and get it diagnosed right away. If you are able to take action fast, you’ll greatly improve your chances of success. 

Poinsettia Varieties

White poinsettias
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There are more than 100 different varieties of poinsettias out there, and they can come in colors of red, white, pink, yellow, purple, green, and even multicolored. Within the different colors, there are many unique cultivars to choose from. If you’re growing your own poinsettias for the first time, consider ordering from an online specialist that can show you photos of the different cultivar options and who has plants (or seeds) to purchase from. This is one of the best parts of gardening—choosing plants that speak to you—so make sure you get what you want. 

Poinsettias Throughout the Seasons

Poinsettias can be four-season plants, giving you a much longer shelf life than a few weeks around the holidays. Before you know it, you’ll have a dozen or more poinsettias going at once, which is going to lead to a beautiful holiday display come November and December, or really great gifts for your family and friends.