Repotting Christmas star: This is how it’s done

Christmas star, also known as poinsettia or Christmas flower
Christmas star, also known as poinsettia or Christmas flower

Poinsettias are not disposable. If you take proper care of your red, yellow, white or pink poinsettia and repot it regularly, you won’t have to buy a new one every year.

Contrary to common practice, the popular Christmas stars (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are not disposable. The evergreen shrubs originate from South America, where they grow several meters tall and live for many years. Poinsettias can be bought everywhere during Advent as miniature editions in small or medium-sized plant pots. As Christmas decorations, poinsettias adorn dining tables, windowsills, foyers and shop windows. What many do not know: Even after Christmas, the evergreen plants can continue to be cared for as houseplants.

As with most mass-produced items, the trade of poinsettia cuts corners to keep the price down. Therefore, most plants from the supermarket or hardware store arrive in small pots with cheap, poor substrate. In this atmosphere, of course, it is impossible for the plant to last more than a few weeks. It is no wonder that the Christmas star usually loses its leaves after a short time and dies.

When to repot a poinsettia?

If you want to keep your Christmas flower, you need to give it special care. Towards the end of the flowering period poinsettia loses its leaves and flowers, which is quite normal. Place the plant in a cooler place now and water less. The Christmas star needs the rest period to regain energy for new shoots. The repotting of the poinsettia then takes place in April. In temperate climates, the tall-growing shrub can only be grown as a stocky potted plant. Therefore, treat the poinsettia like a bonsai when potting, repotting and pruning. Wear gloves when cutting or repotting, as contact with the poisonous milky sap of the poinsettia can cause irritation to the skin.

What soil does the poinsettia need?

Christmas stars generally prefer to stand dry than too wet. In case of waterlogging, the leaves turn yellow and are shed. Root rot and gray mold are the result. When repotting, it is therefore advisable to use a substrate that meets the requirements of the South American shrub. The soil for the poinsettia should be permeable and not too compacted, as cheap soil with peat content often does. Cactus soil has proven itself for the culture of the poinsettia. It is loose and allows excess water to drain off well. If you do not have cactus soil at hand, you can also mix high-quality potting soil with sand or lava granules and plant your poinsettia in it. A handful of mature compost serves as a long-term fertilizer for the plant.

The right pot for the poinsettia

To repot the Christmas star, use a new or well-cleaned pot that is only slightly larger than the old one. No more than two fingers should fit between the rim of the pot and the root ball. If poinsettia has too much room for the roots, the plant will sprout many green leaves but few bracts and will bloom only moderately. After the dormant period, during which little watering was done, the soil in the pot should be slightly dry. Gently knead to loosen the root ball from the plant pot. If the roots are heavily stuck to the pot wall, you can run a long knife around the edge once. Remove old soil and rotten root ends when repotting. Long roots of houseplants can be shortened a little with sharp scissors. Shoots should also be cut back before repotting.

How to repot a poinsettia

Fill the new plant pot with the appropriate substrate and carefully place the poinsettia inside. Press the root ball down well all around and fill up with soil to the edge of the pot. The poinsettia should not sit deeper in the soil after repotting than before. If you only have normal potting soil and no sand or cactus soil at hand, this is not a problem. Then, however, give in any case first a drainage of expanded clay or pebbles in the pot. This will prevent waterlogging later when watering. Water the repotted poinsettia well and let excess water drain off. Then place the plant on a saucer or in a planter with drainage for further cultivation.

Further care after repotting

Keeping the Christmas flower in shape by proper pruning and repotting will allow it to bloom again next winter. Once the poinsettia has been carefully repotted, it can remain in its pot for the next two to three years. Add fresh substrate to the top if needed. With good care, the shrub can reach a nice size. Once the plant pot is fully rooted, or the roots are coming out the top of the pot, it is time for the next pot size.

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