Why do poinsettias drop their leaves?

You can get a great sense of the Christmas spirit when you walk into a garden center and get slapped in the face by a sea of poinsettia displays. Of course they looks absolutely stunning but once, after checking over the first twenty or so identical plants, you have made your purchase why is it that your perfect purchase collapses once it arrives at home? Just why do poinsettias drop their leaves?

The initial answer is simple, poinsettias generally drop their leaves when exposed to environmental stress. This is usually caused by the root-ball being too wet, the plant being exposed to cold or relatively hot conditions. But there is anther reason, the colourful bracts will drop once the true flowers in the center have become spent.

Why do poinsettias drop their leaves?
Root ball too wet

This is one of the most common reasons why poinsettias drop their leaves and the botanical name gives a clue to this - Euphorbia pulcherrima. Those with an interest in cacti and succulents will recognise the species name Euphorbia, perhaps more commonly known as spurge. many of which have evolved to survive in the deserts of Southern Africa and Madagascar. So as you would expect Poinsettias react poorly to being waterlogged and prefer to dry out between waterings.

Just one more thing with regards to watering. Don't use cold water straight from the tap as this can chill the roots. Always use tepid water to prevent shock.

Too hot or too cold

This is a simple one, do not place your Poinsettia by a radiator or open fire, Equally take care that your specimen does not become chilled at home or prior to coming home. It won't be the first time that a plants has been delivered on a trolly to a garden centre on a frosty morning and is left outside while the house plant manager takes their tea break. The same can be said for leaving plants in your car for a few hours.


While the colorful bracts look like flower petals they are in fact modified leaves. They of course do the same job, as in attracting pollinating insects, however the true flowers are the cluster of small blooms found in the centre of each bract. Once the blooms have finished there is no longer any need for the colourful bracts and so they are naturally dropped. So when choosing your poinsettia always try to choose plants where the blooms are as tight as possible.

Two more things

Now that you have more of an idea as to what can trigger leave drop these next two things are probably self evident.

1. As which many houseplants, do not place your poinsettias in a cold draught.

2. Do not purchase your plants from a street vendor or from a display that is kept outside such as one you would expect from a wintery petrol garage forecourt. That would be crazy!

For related articles click onto the following links:
How to Care for Poinsettias
THE CHRISTMAS ROSE - Helleborus niger

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