Euphorbia pulcherrima 

(uu-for' bee-ah pull-care' ri-mah)

Common name: Poinsettia, Christmas Star, Mexican Flameleaf, Flor de Noche Buena

Family: Euphorbiaceae, Spurge

Height x width: 12-24" x 12-24" as a potted crop

Foliage: lanceolate to ovate-elliptic to 6" long and 4" wide, dentate to lobed, long petioles

Flowers: in umbellate cymes, the leaf-like bracts turning showy colors (reds, pinks, whites, variously bicolor splotched) in response to short daylengths, the flowers in center of bracts inconspicuous cyathia and yellowish

Light: bright

Temperature: warm

Watering: keep well watered

Humidity: moderate

Soil: well-drained

Pests and Problems: root and stem rots, powdery mildew, gray mold, virus, aphids, whiteflies, thrips; physiological problems including bilateral bract spots ("rabbit tracks"), stem splitting, bract edge burn, premature cyathia drop, latex eruption ("crud")

Growth habit, uses: flowering potted plant

Other interest: native to western Mexico, it was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800's by U.S. ambassador to Mexico Joel Poinsett, who sent plants to a garden in South Carolina; in the early 1900's Paul Ecke got cuttings, started propagating plants and with his subsequent sons and business--the Paul Ecke Ranch, Encinitas, Calif.-- is largely responsible for the poinsettia being the number one potted flowering crop today; only one species of a large genus comprising tropical as well as temperate plants, sharing in common a milky sap which may be irritating to some but is NOT considered poisonous contrary to popular myths. Grows as a 10-15' small tree in the tropics.

Other culture: (.wmv video on care) Rooted cuttings are generally potted late August, early September, or later if grown single stem. Plants are pinched to promote lateral sideshoots and better form about 2 weeks after potting. Short days should begin about 2-5 weeks after pinching.

This crop requires 11.5 hours of dark daily over a period of several weeks to flower. This is usually provided by pulling black cloth over plants in the south in early fall, or in areas of extraneous light, generally beginning about the third week of September and going until bract color or early November--about 6 weeks . As little as 1-2 foot-candles of light can delay flowering, with a minimum 10 foot-candle night interruption from 10pm to 2am often used to keep plants vegetative as for stock plants, rooting cuttings and initial growth. Varieties differ in time to bloom and heights, Annette Hegg cultivars usually requiring a growth regulator early in the season to maintain proper final height. Much research has been done on this crop and its scheduling in the last 10 years, with DIF and graphical tracking now used by larger growers to control height and growth.

This crop generally requires high fertility of 150-300ppm N until bract formation, after which this is reduced. Plants are quite susceptible to root diseases so required good soil and careful watering. Temperature should be 68-72ºF during growth, and about 5º lower during bract development and final stages of growth. Nights are usually about 5 degrees lower. Lower than these delays flowering and reduces bract size. Higher than these speeds flowering but reduces plant quality and fades bract color. Fluctuations or extremes in environmental factors can lead to diseases and physiological problems.

A well-produced plant should be in good proportion to pot size, with flowers mostly covering leaves and of good size, dark green leaves, uniform height and width, free of pests, and for final sale with cyathia present and just beginning to show pollen (anthesis). After bloom continue growing and maintaining as a houseplant; may be placed outdoors in summer during which bracts may still be present; cut back leggy growth; bring back indoors well before frost and begin light treatment as above.

Propagation: cuttings, usually purchased from a specialty propagator


Response as listed below under weeks refers to time from potting rooted cutting to flowering. The following are only a few of the more popular cultivars. Red remains by far the most popular color with up to 3/4 of sales, with the Freedom series one of the most popular. Most are listed by the Paul Ecke Poinsettia Ranch, Encinitas, CA except those Mikkel cultivars.
Cultivar flower color weeks other
'Annette Hegg Dark Red' dark red tall, was popular in 1970's
'Annette Hegg Hot Pink' vibrant pink  
'Annette Hegg Topwhite' white  
'Candy Cane' white, rose 10 rose flecks on white
'Celebrate 2 Red' bright red 8.5  doesn't droop
'Celebrate 2 Pink' pink, erect 8.5   
'Celebrate 2 White' white, erect 8.5   
'Cranberry Punch' red 8 medium hgt., dark green
'Darlyne Pink' reddish pink 8.5 Supjibi type
'Freedom Red' red dark green
'Freedom Bright Red' bright red 8 dark green
'Freedom Rose' rose 8 dark green
'Freedom Jingle Bells' red, pink flecks dark green
'Freedom Marble' pink, white bicolor dark green
'Freedom Pink' pink dark green, finish cool
'Freedom White' creamy white dark green
'Gutbier V-14 Pink' dark pink, large 9.5   
'Gutbier V-14 White' white, large 9.5  sport of 'Glory'
'Gutbier V-14 Glory' red, large 9.5 better in South
'Gutbier V-17 Angelika Red' bright red poorer shelf life
'Gutbier V-17 A. Marble' pink, white bicolor more pink
'Gutbier V-17 Angelika Pink' pink  
'Gutbier V-17 Angelika White' clear white  
'Heirloom Red' red 9 silvery flecked leaves
'Heirloom Pink' pink 9 silvery flecked leaves
'Heirloom Peach' salmon 9 silvery flecked leaves
'Jingle Bells' red, pink flecks 9.5  
'Jingle Bells 3' red, pink flecks 10   
'Jolly Red' red 10  
'Lemon Drop' golden yellow 8.5  very dark green, slow
'Lilo Red' ruby red 8.5  good in low light areas
'Lilo Marble' pink, white bicolor 8.5   
'Lilo Pink' pink 8.5  dark green
'Lilo White' creamy white 8.5  dark green
'Marblestar' salmon, white 8.5 white edged bracts
'Maren' coral pink 8.5  
'Monet' cream, rose, pink 9.5  bracts darken over time
'Monet Twilight' cream, rose, pink 9.5 darker bracts than Monet
'Pearl White' white 8.5 Supjibi type
'Peptide Red' red 8 small series
'Peptide Pink' pink 8  
'Peptide Marble' pink, white bicolor 8 pink bract centers
'Peptide Jingle Bells' red, pink flecks 8 white flecked bracts
'Peterstar Red' red 8.5  
'Peterstar White' white 8.5  
'Peterstar Pink' pink 8.5  
'Peterstar Marble' pink, white bicolor 8.5  
'Peterstar Silverbells' pink, white 8.5 white in leaves, flower edges
'Peterstar Orange' orange-red 8.5  
'Petoy Red' red 8.5 Supjibi type
'Pink Peppermint' peach, red flecks  
'Pink Splendor' pink 10 dark green
'Red Baron' red 8.5 Supjibi type
'Red Sails' dark red dark green, poorer shelf life
'Red Satin' satiny red 9  
'Red Splendor' red 10 dark green
'Red Velvet' velvet red 9 dark green
'Snowcap White' bright white 8.5 medium-tall
'Success Red' red 9.5  
'Success Pink' pink 9.5  
'Success Coral' coral 9.5  
Success Light Pink' light pink 9.5  
'Supjibi Red' velvety red 8.5  tolerates warm
'White Splendor' white 10 dark green
'Winter Rose Dark Red' red 10 curly rose-like bracts
'Mikkel Pink Yuletide' deep pink 9.5   
'Mikkel White Yuletide' white  
'Mikkel Yuletide' deep red 9.5  good in warm, low light

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS121, Indoor Plants.

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