For more than 100 years, the poinsettia has been considered one of the most popular houseplants during the Advent period in Germany. However, in many homes, the plant ends up in compost or household waste at the end of the year. This is despite the fact that “Euphorbia pulcherrima” is a perennial plant that could shine again the following year.

If you take good care of your poinsettia, you won’t need to throw it away after the holiday season. So that the houseplant gets bright red leaves again this year, it is necessary now – i.e. in November – to pay attention to a small detail when caring for it. Here you will find out what exactly you need to do to be able to enjoy a radiant poinsettia during the coming Advent season. Here’s what you need to know: The secret lies in the lighting conditions.

The poinsettia trick: how to get red leaves in time for Christmas

The poinsettia is one of the short-day plants and only forms red flowers and leaves when it receives a maximum of eleven hours of light per day. This very popular houseplant is in fact native to the equatorial region and therefore flowers exclusively in winter in our latitudes. In tropical regions there are no fixed seasons, which is why the poinsettia grows independently there. However, its flowering depends on light conditions. In the region of origin of the plant, the days never last more than twelve hours, which is why the poinsettia experiences a phase of darkness of at least twelve hours every day.

This is why this popular houseplant is only in season in Central Europe from late autumn. As the days get shorter, the plant stays in the dark longer and forms its characteristic red leaves just in time for the Advent season. When the days get longer from February, the poinsettia withers and only forms green leaves.

Moreover, the red part of the plant is not strictly speaking a flower, but a discolored bract. The flowers themselves are rather small and yellow and are found in the middle of the bracts.

Eleven hours of light per day maximum

To simulate conditions in the native region, place the poinsettia in a dark location for several weeks starting in early November. For the leaves of this popular houseplant to turn red, it should receive no more than eleven hours of light per day. The poinsettias that you can buy now in garden centers have already undergone this procedure. The “dark phase” must also last at least six weeks. During this period, your poinsettia should be placed in a very dark place or covered for a few hours. So that you can enjoy its red leaves in time for Christmas, you should start this procedure now!

The following rooms in the apartment are ideal for this:

  • cellars without windows
  • clearance
  • unlit warehouses

If you can’t find a suitable location, simply cover the plant with an opaque bag or cardboard. Also make sure to water the poinsettia regularly during this phase.

After the “dark phase”, place your reactivated poinsettia in the desired location. This should if possible be warmer than 72 °F, clear, sunny and protected from drafts. If you follow these tips, it won’t take long for the red leaves to appear. Your poinsettia will shine brightly as Advent approaches!