Intro: The poinsettia, also called noche buena, is a popular container plant around the holidays. You can find this hardy plant decorating malls, offices and houses during the Christmas season, but it is actually a shrub that can grow to 12 feet. The balcony container gardener can prune this plant back and give it some special care to have their poinsettias flourish year after year in a container. This plant has colorful bracts, or modified leaves, that serve their purpose as attracting pollinators. The poinsettia variety that gardeners most often see is bright red, and these leaves are often mistaken for flowers.
Scientific Name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Plant Type: Shrub
Light: Provide the poinsettia plant with bright indoor light during the winter. Give your poinsettia outdoor sun for the summer, and periods of light and total darkness for two fall months. (More information on this in the Misc. Info section below.)
Propagation: It is difficult to propagate this container plant. The poinsettia needs to flower in order to produce seeds (a long period of darkness is required for the plant to flower; see Misc. Info section for more).
Misc. Info: The poinsettia does not tolerate large temperature differences. Keep it between 50 and 70 degrees. It does best as a houseplant in indoor gardens or on stable-temperature balcony gardens.
To get the red color on the plant’s leaves, you must change its normal photoperiod for two months every year. Poinsettias can last for years with no special care, but the container plant will have normal green leaves. It will grow green leaves if you provide this container plant with a normal photoperiod.
To make the poinsettia plant come back with red leaves and a chance of flowering again, follow these instructions. In March, cut the plant back (it’s okay for your poinsettia to even be leafless). The plant will begin to grow back. You can keep it outdoors in the balcony garden in the summer if sheltered from intense light and winds. In late September, begin the two-month darkness cycle. Give the poinsettia plant 12 hours of complete darkness for two months in a temperature of about 60 degrees. For the best leaf color, also give it 12 hours of bright light during this time. If you complete all of these steps when caring for your poinsettia, you will be able to keep your poinsettia thriving with beautiful red bracts and maybe even some flowers for many Christmas holiday plant displays to come.