Gardening: How to care for plants which fall victim to unscrupulous retailers

Poinsettias.
Poinsettias.

More than six million Poinsettias are sold every year in the UK, most to die a slow, horrible death, due to unscrupulous retailers who know nothing about plants trying to make a fast buck (I suspect).

I have to say, despite being a member of my favourite Euphorbia family, I really don’t like them. This is probably due to childhood Christmas memories packed with overwatered and dying specimens.

This Mexican native, you will usually read, is not as difficult to care for as is made out. I disagree - they are not a plant for a beginner, especially if the plant has been bought from a retailer who puts profit first and not the welfare of the plant.

However, if you decide to take the plunge, here’s how to look after them:

1. Buy from a reputable garden centre or supplier who will know that the plant needs to be protected from an Arctic blast the minute you walk out of their premises.

2. Before you buy, test the soil. Poinsettias hate being overwatered, so that’s a bad sign, but so is bone-dry compost - it isn’t being looked after and will be stressed.

3. Overwatering leads to root rot and death - the root ball should neither soaking nor dry. Take double care if the plant is in a decorative outer pot with no drainage. When it does need watering, immerse the rootball in slightly tepid water, then let it drain thoroughly in a sink. Once a week should be enough.

4. Leaves are the first indicator that something is wrong. Yellowing or falling leaves usually mean something’s gone wrng with watering. Check how wet/dry the soil is. if it’s overwet, make sure it’s not sitting in water.

5. Poinsettias hate draughts - avoid fireplaces, open doorways, open windows or hallways.

6. Keep it in decent daylight - a windowsill is fine, as long as the window isn’t opened and bring it into the room at night so it’s not trapped behind curtains.

7. Poinsettias favour a temperature between 15°C and 20°C, so it should be fine in most living rooms.