How to Revive a Dying Poinsettia Plant


How to revive a dying poinsettia plant

A dying poinsettia is usually because of drought stress due to under watering and low humidity. Poinsettia leaves wilt and drop off with a dying appearance if they suffer from drought. Poinsettias are not cold hardy and temperatures lower then 60°F can be the cause of a dying poinsettia.

To revive a dying poinsettia it is important to recreate some of the optimal growing conditions of the tropical plant in your home.

Keep reading for how to revive your poinsettia if it is dropping leaves, wilting, turning yellow or black

Poinsettia Dropping Leaves

The most likely reason for your poinsettia dropping leaves is because of a sudden contrast in its growing conditions or due to drought stress.

Leaves dropping could be caused by drastic change in temperature or air flow.

This is particularly common problem after buying a poinsettia when the plant has been cultivated in specific conditions, usually in a greenhouse with controlled temperature, light watering and airflow, then it is moved to the store or to your home where it has to adjust to a new set of conditions.

The stress caused by the difference in temperature and airflow in particular is often the cause of leaves dropping from your poinsettia.

Poinsettias are topical plants originating in Mexico that require consistent warm temperatures and drop leaves and die in the cold.

If the poinsettia is kept too cold whilst being prepared for sale at a temperature lower then 53°F (12°C) for a long period then the leaves drop off and the plant often dies back even with good care, so always buy poinsettia from reputable growers where possible.

Whilst potential in transit from the nursery, and or store to your home its watering schedule is disrupted and the poinsettia soil is often dry for a long time which can also cause leaves to drop.

Generally the older leaves drop off in response to drought as the poinsettia tries to limit water loss from leaves by defoliating and reduce demand for moisture as a survival strategy in times of drought.

Some older leaves do drop off naturally over time but a sudden occurrence of leaves dropping is more likely a sign of stress.

How to Revive a Poinsettia that is Dropping Leaves

Poinsettia can usually be saved even if it is losing its leaves and appears to be dying, if the causes are underwatering or slight transplant shock but exposure to significantly cold temperatures is likely to cause the poinsettia to die back and it can be difficult for the poinsettia to recover.

The way to revive the poinsettia is to provide the optimal growing conditions in your home.

  • Poinsettias require a temperature of more then 60°F (15°C) during the day room temperature being acceptable and night temperatures of at least 55°F (13°C). Always locate your poinsettia in warm room to help mitigate stress to the plant.
  • Place the poinsettia in a location that is away from cold draughts, air conditioning, forced air, or so they are not located directly next to any sources of heat that can cause sudden fluctuations in temperatures. Air currents sap moisture from the leaves causing the to drop off.
  • Move the poinsettia to an area of bright indirect sunlight as it does not tolerate direct sun.
  • Give the poinsettia a good soak. If the dropping leaves is accompanied by yellowing leaves and wilting then check to see if the soil is dry. To identify drought stress, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole. If it feels completely dry the poinsettia requires a good soak.
  • Place the poinsettia in a basin of water if it has suffered drought stress. When soil has dried out completely it can sometimes repel moisture off the surface. Soaking the soil of the poinsettia ensures that the water can infiltrate the soil and reach the roots properly.
  • Poinsettias do not like the soil to be damp nor to dry out completely. When the top inch of the soil feels somewhat dry this is the perfect time to water. This water cycle mimics the conditions in its native range of Mexico.

With a good watering schedule, the right consistent temperature and indirect light, the poinsettia can acclimate to its new settings.

However its should be emphasized that poinsettia are not cold hardy if it has experienced lower temperatures then its normal range for a significant amount of time then the poinsettia can often lose its leaves and die back.

(I recommend that you read my article on how to water poinsettias to learn how to establish the optimal watering practices for the conditions in your home).

Poinsettia Wilting and Leaves Curling

If the poinsettia is wilting and the leaves are curling then this is an indication of underwatering or low humidity, drying out the poinsettia faster the roots can draw up moisture.

Under watering can be because of not watering the poinsettia often enough or watering too lightly so that only the top inch or so of the soil is moistened and the water does not infiltrate and reach the roots properly where it is required.

Poinsettia are native to tropical regions and prefer a little more humidity then most house plants but the soil should dry out slightly between bouts of watering for the optimal balance of moisture.

The leaves curl to try to reduce the surface area of the leaf to reduce water loss.

The leaves on your poinsettia usually wilt and curl as a sign of more mild drought stress whereas if the drought stress is more severe the poinsettia drops leaves usually from the bottom.

As the leaves are wilted and curled rather then necessarily all dropping off this means you can revive the poinsettia with some care and prevent it from dying back.

How to Revive a Wilted Poinsettia

  • Move the poinsettia to an area out of direct air currents or draughts. There are several factors in a home that can dry out the poinsettia too quickly such as air conditioning, forced air and convention currents from heating that all sap moisture from the leaves.
  • Whilst the poinsettia is wilted ensure that it is not in any direct light. Poinsettias prefer bright indirect light. Any direct sunlight can add to the stress of the plant.
  • Use a spray to mist the plant. Spraying the plant helps to create a humid micro-climate to emulate the conditions of the poinsettia native tropical environment. Spray the poinsettia around twice per week. Spray helps to reduce water loss from the leaves.
  • Place the poinsettia in a basin of water for 10 minutes. When soil dries out it can become hydrophobic (repels water) so that moisture does not reach the roots despite watering. This is more common with potting mixes that contain peat soil. Soaking the root ball ensures that poinsettia gets a much needed drink and really helps to improve the chance of recovery.
  • Water your poinsettia more often. For most homes and climates watering once per week is optimal. However it is important to establish the correct watering frequency for your conditions. Water the poinsettia with a generous soak and then monitor the soil over the course of a week or so. As soon as the top inch of the soil feels somewhat dry this is the ideal time fore watering to maintain the optimal balance of moisture.
  • Always water with a good soak. If your water too lightly then the moisture does not reach the roots. Water generously so that excess water trickles out the base of the pot through the drainage holes. This is a good indication that the soil is evenly moist and the roots can uptake the moisture they require.

With the optimal watering cycle and more humidity the poinsettia can start to recover from its wilted appearance with around 2 or 3 cycles of watering the leaves should look much healthier.

Poinsettia Turning Yellow

If your poinsettia leaves are turning yellow this is most often an indication of overwatering, however it can also indicate underwatering.

To tell whether your poinsettia is yellow due to overwatering or underwatering check the soil at the base of the pot through the drainage hole to detect whether the soil is dry or boggy.

Soil that is saturated excludes oxygen which prevents root respiration and potentially causes root rot or fungal disease (which can also turn the poinsettia leaves black).

This causes the leaves to turn yellow and droop.

Overwatering is not the only factor that causes too much moisture around the roots and turns your poinsettia yellow.

  • Pots and containers without drainage holes in the base. Pots without drainage holes cause water to pool around the roots which causes moisture stress and the poinsettia leaves turn yellow.
  • Compacted soil or root blocking drainage holes. If you notice your soil draining slowly then check to ensure water can escape freely.
  • Saucers, trays and decorative outer pots can all prevent water escaping which keeps the soil boggy. Saucers, trays and pots are often used to prevent water spilling in the home but they should be emptied regularly to ensure the soil around the roots can dry properly rather then stay too damp.

Too much fertilizer can also burn the roots which can turn the leaves yellow as a sign of stress.

How To Revive Yellow Poinsettia

  • Let the soil dry out properly. Ensure that water can escape from the base of the pot to help maintain the optimal balance of moisture.
  • Scale back the watering. Only water the poinsettia when the top inch has become somewhat dry. This replicates the watering cycle in the poinsettia natural habitat.
  • With a watering schedule that meets the requirements of the poinsettia the plant can revive. However if the poinsettia has root rot then it is much more difficult to save and it is likely the plant dies back.
  • Poinsettia does not require any fertilizer during the Christmas period as this is likely to promote foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Only apply fertilizer after it has flowered and use a half strength house plant fertilizer once per month. Using too much fertilizer or in high concentration can burn the roots, turning the leaves yellow and kill the plant. Scale back the use of fertilizer if you think this is the reason your poinsettia has turned yellow to allow it to recover.

Poinsettia Turning Black

If your poinsettia is turning black this is usually due to cold or even frost damage. Poinsettias are not cold hardy and very sensitive to frost.

Any exposure to the cold can kill a poinsettia so always try to keep it at around room temperature.

If some of your leaves are turning black ensure that these leaves are not in contact with a cold window as frost glass can turn these leaves black.

Cut away any frost damaged black leaves that have been exposed to the cold with a pair of pruners.

Ensure that the poinsettia is in a location in the house with temperatures that do not go lower then 60°F (15°C) to keep the plant healthy.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason for a dying poinsettia is often drought stress due to underwatering and low humidity which causes poinsettia leaves wilt and can drop off as a sign of stress. Temperatures colder then 60°F can cause poinsettia leaves to drop and turn black with a dying appearance.
  • Increase the watering and spray the leaves with mist to revive wilted poinsettia.
  • Ensure that poinsettia is in a warm room and the temperature is not less then 60°F. If the poinsettia leaves turn black this is often due to cold temperatures. Trim the black leaves back with a pair of pruners.
  • If the poinsettia is turning yellow, this can indicate drought stress or overwatering. Water your poinsettia only when the top inch of the soil feels dry to avoid overwatering which can cause root rot.

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