It is a common problem and trigger for a lot of frustration in the run-up to Christmas: As soon as the newly purchased poinsettia has arrived in your living room, it loses the first leaves. Most of the time, there is a reason for this – sometimes several.
Christmas without a poinsettia on the windowsill? Unimaginable for many plant lovers! However, one or the other has had rather bad experiences with the tropical milkweed species.
The poinsettia is definitely one of the most misunderstood houseplants. Although it is only brought into the home as an annual potted plant for a few months in this country, the poinsettia is actually a tropical shrub that grows up to six meters high and presents its beautiful red bracts all year round. So it is not surprising that the South American plant, which belongs to the milkweed family, squeezed into small pots and possibly defaced with sticky glitter or spray paint does not feel particularly comfortable in our living rooms. The fact that the poinsettia loses its leaves after a short time and does not die long after a purchase is often the result of mistakes in poinsettia care. If your poinsettia is dropping its leaves prematurely, it could be caused by one of the following reasons.
Poinsettia is losing leaves: an overview of the causes
- Incorrect temperature: a poinsettia should never be below ten degrees Celsius. Temperatures between 18 and 20 degrees are ideal.
- Drafts: place the plant in a sheltered place.
- Too little light: The poinsettia likes it bright, but without direct sun.
- Incorrect watering: the plant cannot tolerate too much water. A dip every seven to ten days is ideal.
- Too much-ripening gas: poinsettias produce ethylene. For example, if the plants are wrapped in foil, the gas accumulates and causes them to age faster.
Incorrect temperature and the leaves are falling
Due to their South American origin, poinsettias are very temperature-sensitive. Although the plant can stand in a warm living room, if you want to have something from the bloom for a long time, you should keep the poinsettia at 18 to 20 degrees Celsius. Winter temperatures below ten degrees Celsius are particularly harmful to tropical plants. Unfortunately, especially in supermarkets and hardware stores, the plants are usually placed far too cold. The result: the poinsettia often loses its leaves just a few days after purchase.
Poinsettias that stand outside the shop or in the drafty entrance area in winter should therefore not even be bought because they have long since frozen to death. Make sure that the plants are offered at room temperature and ensure that they are well protected from the cold with foil, newspaper, or wrapping paper, even when transporting them home, even over short distances. Don’t leave the plant waiting in the cold car when you go shopping for Christmas.
If the location is too cold, the poinsettia will quickly lose its leaves. Therefore, Euphorbia pulcherrima is definitely not suitable for outdoor decorations in winter
Poinsettia loses its leaves in a draft
As we have seen, the poinsettia is basically not a fan of cool temperatures. If the plant is still draughty, for example in the foyer, in the stairwell, or in rooms that are often ventilated, such as the kitchen or bedroom, it throws off its leaves offended. It doesn’t matter whether the draft is warm or cold. Therefore, place the plants as protected as possible or bring them to a safe place before ventilating. The first sign of a location that is too draughty is the leaves turning yellow or wilting.
Another cause of leaf loss: Too little light
The poinsettia is a light-loving plant. Unfortunately, the light output for the plants is generally greatly reduced in our latitudes in winter. The location for the poinsettia should therefore be as bright as possible, but not in direct sunlight. The coffee table or bathroom is not in the right places. It is usually just too dark there, which is why the poinsettia also likes to lose its leaves.
The poinsettia is well placed in a draft-free, bright window
Leaf fall due to incorrect watering
Like many exotic potted plants, the poinsettia is often doused – not only in the household but often in the shop too. The tropical plant is very sensitive to too much water and waterlogging and then quickly loses its first leaves. It is, therefore, better to water the poinsettia a little less than too much. It is best to give the plant a short immersion bath, which is repeated every seven to ten days.
Place the poinsettia in a saucer or a pot with drainage so that excess water can drain off. If the earth is too dry for the poinsettia, this can easily be recognized by the hanging leaves. Then it should be poured again. However, drought does less harm to the plant than moisture. Tip: Avoid using fertilizer during the flowering phase of the poinsettia. This only leads to growth in size at the wrong time and displaces the colored bracts.
Ripening gas causes poinsettias to age
An often underestimated problem is the poinsettias’ ethylene production. This ripening gas, which is also given off by apples, for example, normally dissolves in the room air. In the run-up to Christmas, however, poinsettias are packed in large quantities and packed in foil for sale in plant stores. This oversupply of ethylene, which cannot volatilize, causes the plant to age prematurely after just a few hours of enrichment. Therefore, do not buy poinsettias that have been stored next to the fruit display. Take your poinsettia out of its packaging at home and avoid decorations that prevent the gas from escaping, such as displaying the plant in a tall glass.
Poinsettia in a jar: Decorative, but not beneficial for the plant’s shelf life
Poinsettia loses leaves after flowering
If you don’t throw your poinsettia on the compost after the holidays, but continue to cultivate it, you will find that the plant sheds its colored bracts after the flowering period ends in March. This is a normal renewal of the poinsettia and not a maintenance mistake. You can find detailed information on how to properly care for your plant all year round in our detailed plant portrait of the poinsettia. By the way: Occasionally you should repot a poinsettia so that it remains vital and blooming.