Do you ever wish you could grow your very own poinsettias for the holidays? Good news: you can!
Christmas flowers, as these plants are also known, are usually propagated from cuttings, and this is the method I’m going to share with you today.
Even professional nurseries grow these winter-blooming plants from cuttings, which ensures that newly propagated specimens produce clones of the parent plants.
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However, a word of warning: this particular home gardening challenge is probably more suited for those with an established green thumb, as it can be a little bit tricky.
Now that you’ve been forewarned that growing these holiday plants isn’t without its challenges, drawing on some tips from professional poinsettia growers, I’m going to provide you with a step by step guide so that your propagation project can be met with success.
Here’s a preview:
What You’ll Learn
Wait for New Growth
To grow poinsettias from cuttings you’ll need to start with a live plant and wait until spring or summer.
According to Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., and Extension Horticulture Specialist at New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service, it’s best to take cuttings from new, active growth.
That means that if you find yourself wanting to start this project in the middle of winter, you can try it, but your chances of success are going to be lower.
Gather Your Materials
Before you get started, you’ll want to gather all your materials, to make sure that you have everything you require before you make that first cut.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A poinsettia plant with active, green growth.
- A sterilized, sharp pair of pruners or scissors.
- Sterilized growing containers, such as small nursery pots, plastic cups, or a seed starting flat.
- Growing medium, such as coconut coir, potting soil, or a mixture of vermiculite and perlite.
- A humidity dome or transparent plastic bag to cover the pot.
- A mister or spray bottle.
- Four- or six-inch pots for potting up rooted cuttings.
- Gardening or rubber gloves (optional).
- Rooting hormone (optional).
I will explain what you’ll be doing with each of these items as I guide you through the seven steps. It will help to read through the entire process before you get started.
Propagate Poinsettias in 7 Steps
Now that you have waited until the ideal moment and gathered your materials, it’s time to get propagating! Ready? Let’s go!
1. Protect Your Skin and Eyes
Before you get started, you may want to slip on a pair of gardening gloves or rubber dish gloves. The white sap that is released from poinsettias when they are cut or broken can be highly irritating – particularly if you have a latex allergy.
Take special care not to get the sap in your eyes – whether you have a latex allergy or not. You may even want to wear protective goggles, just as an extra safety precaution.
Alright, now that the safety discussion is out of the way, let’s get down to business.
2. Choose Your Containers
Next, you’ll want to prepare your containers so that they are ready to receive your cuttings.
These containers are going to be temporary, used only for about the first four weeks of the cutting’s life, so they don’t need to be too big.
One option is to start your baby poinsettias in seed starting flats, such as these trays from SOLIGT, available via Amazon.
They come with humidity domes, which are handy for keeping your cuttings nice and humid once they are in place.
Alternatively, you can start them in small nursery pots or even in small plastic cups. If you’re reusing nursery pots, just be sure to sterilize them first.
3. Add Growing Medium
Commercial poinsettia growers start their poinsettia cuttings in floral foam or peat moss.
Since the cuttings can grow in foam, that tells you that they don’t need to be in moist soil – in fact, they don’t need to be started in soil at all.
Instead of using either floral foam or sphagnum peat moss, neither of which are very earth-friendly options, I recommend using a sterile seed starting mix or coconut coir.
Coconut coir is a more environmentally sound alternative to sphagnum peat moss.
Arbico Organics sells an excellent coconut coir product from Prococo called Chips-N-Fiber that’s free from bacteria and fungi, ideal for your new plants. It’s also compressed, so it takes up less space in storage.
Alternatively, you can use a mixture of vermiculite and perlite.
If you are using a seed starting flat such as the one mentioned above, you can pour your growing medium directly into the flat.
You’ll need your potting medium to be at least two to three inches deep in your chosen container, depending on the length of your cuttings.
Don’t wet the potting medium down. Your baby Christmas flowers are going to obtain the water they need through their leaves until their roots are established – not through the soil. I will cover that in more detail below.
Go ahead and poke holes into the potting mixture where you intend to place your cutting. You can do this with your finger, a pencil, or a chopstick.
4. Take Cuttings
Now that your containers are prepped with your preferred medium, it’s time to take some cuttings from your plant.
Using your sterilized pruners or scissors, cut off a three to four-inch section of stem from one of the branches.
You may also be able to simply pinch off a cutting with your fingers if you prefer, but as mentioned, be careful of the sap.
Next, pinch or cut off the lower leaves of the cutting. This will help roots form from the leaf nodes, in addition to growing from the bottom of the stem.
Leave at least two or three leaves on the top of the cutting so that it can take in the moisture it needs through the foliage.
5. Apply Rooting Hormone
This part is optional. If you’d like to go the extra mile in encouraging your cuttings to grow new roots, you can use a rooting hormone.
Dip the bottom of the cutting in the powder or gel and make sure that the product covers the bottom of the stem and the lower leaf nodes.
A tip for this process: instead of sticking the stem directly into the jar of gel or powder, you can pour out a small amount onto a piece of scrap paper, and dip the stem into this smaller amount of rooting hormone.
This may help keep your rooting product viable for longer.
After applying rooting hormone, insert the cutting into the hole you made in the growing medium, making sure the bare leaf nodes go all the way into the medium.
The pre-poked holes will help ensure you don’t rub off the rooting hormone from the stem as you insert it into the soil or coir.
If you need a recommendation for a rooting hormone, I suggest Olivia’s Cloning Gel. I like it because it’s a gel rather than a powder, so you don’t have to worry about breathing it in.
Olivia’s Cloning Gel is available in two-, four-, or eight-ounce bottles from Arbico Organics.
6. Place in a Bright, Humid Location
Now that you have taken all your cuttings and inserted them into your growing medium, it’s time to mist them.
Spray the leaves of your new plants with a mister or spray bottle.
A plastic spray bottle will do, as long as it never contained chemicals or cleaning products.
But if you want something a bit more decorative to dedicate solely to plant care, you might enjoy tending your baby poinsettias with the help of a glass spray bottle, such as this one from NIUTA, available via Amazon.
It’s both lead- and BPA-free.
A note on water – the quality of your water may affect whether your young plants live or die. Many plants are sensitive to contaminants that persist in municipal water and they can also be affected by bacteria and minerals in well water as well.
To tend my indoor plants, I always use filtered water.
Poinsettia cuttings will root most successfully in conditions with very high humidity, between 90-100 percent.
To give your babies the high humidity they need, place them in your greenhouse, if you have one, or keep them covered with a humidity dome.
If you have started your cuttings in small nursery pots or plastic cups, you can create your own mini humidity domes with transparent plastic bags.
Place your plant babies in an area where they will receive bright indirect light, but not direct sunlight. If your home is too dark, a grow light will help.
Mist your young poinsettias daily, but don’t water the growing medium, at this point the poinsettias-to-be are getting the moisture they need through their leaves – they don’t have any roots yet.
Alright, so far, this sounds pretty easy right? Here’s the tricky part.
Although poinsettia cuttings need high humidity to grow, high humidity also puts these plants at a higher risk for some of the bacterial and fungal diseases they are prone to.
Some professional poinsettia growers solve this dilemma by keeping some fans going on low at all times (which can also help strengthen the branches).
If you’re gardening in a greenhouse it may be easy for you to keep these plants in a high-humidity environment while also keeping them well-ventilated.
In a home interior, providing both high humidity and adequate ventilation can be a bit trickier.
I recommend taking more cuttings than you need in case not all of them make it.
If you are growing more than one, it’s also a good idea to space your young plants out from each other to help with air circulation, and to prevent the spread of disease if one of them succumbs to a bacterial or fungal infection.
And if you do have a fan you can use on a very low setting, that will also help with air circulation.
If all goes well, your baby poinsettias will prosper and begin producing new leaves. It takes about ten to fourteen days for poinsettia cuttings to grow roots.
7. Pot Your Rooted Cuttings
After about four weeks, your young plants should be growing roots and be ready to transplant into pots. When transplanting, make sure to use well-draining potting soil and pots with drainage holes – Christmas flowers do not like to have wet feet.
For a full-looking plant you can space out three cuttings in one seven- to eight-inch pot, or you can place a single one in the center of a four-inch pot.
After transplanting, you can begin to water your plants normally.
Water deeply enough so that it runs through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. The surface of the soil should be dry to the touch in between waterings.
And if your climate is warm enough, with temperatures maintained above 50°F, you can place your poinsettias outside in partial shade.
When left to their own devices, poinsettias grow into large, leggy plants.
If you want your plant to have a bushier look, when the rooted cuttings are about six weeks old, pinch the shoot tip back to promote branching.
Let me explain:
When you took your cutting it was a straight length of stem with a few leaves attached.
Look at your rooted cutting. It should have a growing tip, and below that a couple of larger leaves.
Pinch off just the growing tip that grows straight up from the stem – the top half an inch or so of growth.
Pinching the growing tip back will encourage the plant to send out new shoots at the next leaf nodes. So you remove one shoot, but you get two in exchange. The more shoots it grows, the more flowers and color your plant will eventually have.
You’ll want to do this by early September to be on track for end of the year holiday color.
Speaking of color, to encourage your plant to produce the bright colors poinsettias are known and loved for, you’ll need to expose it to a period of long nights.
Poinsettias are photoperiodic plants – they only flower after being exposed to long, pitch black nights.
Creating these conditions may be a rather high maintenance process, but it’s certainly worth it when you can look with pride at the gorgeous color on your homegrown Christmas flower.
You can learn more about how to encourage these plants to bloom year after year in our article on keeping your poinsettia after the holidays.
Grow Your Own Holiday Joy
There you go, the seven steps to growing your own poinsettias at home.
If you follow these steps, and have a little luck, you will be graced with a home full of homegrown poinsettias this holiday season.
What do you think, gardener, are you ready to give it a go? Have you ever tried propagating poinsettias on your own? Let us know about your experience in the comments and feel free to share a picture!
And if you’re interested in learning more about poinsettias make sure to check out some of our other articles about these winter blooming plants:
- How to Grow and Care for Poinsettias
- 35 Favorite Poinsettia Cultivars for Your Home
- How Cold Hardy Are Poinsettia Plants?
Photos by Clare Groom © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via NIUTA, Olivia’s Cloning Gel, Prococo, and SOLIGT. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Kristina Hicks-Hamblin
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. Originally from the temperate suburbs of North Carolina, she enjoys discovering ways to meet a climate challenge. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer and a Building Biology Environmental Consultant, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina loves the challenges of dryland gardening and teaching others to use climate compatible gardening techniques, and she strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles. Kristina considers it a point of pride that she spends more money on seeds each year than she does on clothes.