The Causes and Cures for Poinsettia Leaf Problems

Over the years, I've seen a lot of poinsettia leaf problems - both in the greenhouses and from my readers. Here are some of the common questions I've been asked over the years. I hope you find your answer here.

What has caused the black edges on my bracts, will it spread on this plant or onto others? What can I do for it?

Doug says that the black or brown crispy edges on the leaves is due to a change in humidity and watering from the greenhouse to the home environment. Your house is much drier than the greenhouse and this is what has happened. Nothing you can do to reverse this process on existing leaves.

Do not overwater the plant - this is another partial cause of tip and leaf browning.

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The leaves on my poinsettia are wilted - the soil is already moist, what can I do to un-wilt the leaves.

Doug says it sounds as if your plant has been overwatered and is now having root problems.

Only water when the soil is dry to the touch.

This can also happen if you allow the plant to get too cold

Too cold and overwatering is a death sentence rather than a growing condition. :-(

Keep it warm and don't water until it needs it.

We purchased a poinsettia two days ago and the ends of the red blooming leaves are drying up and turing black.

We did not expose the plant to cold weather. And we have carefully managed the watering to not over-water or not enough watering (ie. We used the finger wetness test daily). Also, we have the plant located in a bright location.

What do you think might be the problem?

Doug says that leaf tips and bracts turning black is normally from moving from a high-humid environment such as a greenhouse to a very low-humidity environment such as a house in the middle of winter.

There are other causes but that's the biggie.

I am an idiot and accidentaly left my poinsettias out on a cold night. Is there anything I can do to "bring them back" from drooping, or did I kill them?

Doug says that once the plant gets cold like this and droops and starts dropping leaves, there's nothing that can be done. It's about to progress through dropping all it's leaves and there's nothing you can do about this. Sorry.

Can I trim of the dried black parts on the flowers without damaging the plant?

Doug says the poinsettia flowers are the small yellow "dots" on top of the red bracts. You can cut these off with no problem.

If you're asking can you cut off dead parts of the colored bracts, the answer is a qualified yes. What will happen is the leaf will "bleed" some latex and the cut edge will go brown. So you can do it but the leaf won't stay green very long. Once you see the blackening/leaf damage on a poinsettia, it's pretty much a done deal. It's a short term repair "thing" but not a long term strategy - better to eliminate the leaf entirely.

If that poinsettia leaf is green and is on the bottom of the plant, you can use some Christmas foil to wrap the pot a bit higher to hide the damage but those upper red bracts are pretty tough to disguise once they're gone.

Poinsettia flowers Image credit

My bottom leaves turning yellow and falling off -- very slowly

On my poinsettia, which I have had in my office for about 2 months, the bottom leaves have, one at a time, begun to turn yellow and then fall off. They aren't falling off in droves, or even in 2s and 3s. Is it because I am not checking and watering often enough? So far, only 2 leaves have fallen off and 2 more are in some stage of yellowing. I can't think of anything else I could do to make the plant happy. I welcome any suggestion you may give.

Doug says that this plant is unhappy - probably with the amount of sunlight it's being given. And in an office is out of it's comfort zone of full sun in Mexico.

The reality is that this shrub isn't designed for long term indoor use unless you're a berserker gardener with grow-lights (always assuming you don't want a tall lanky plant).

My .02. Toss it - make your office look better.

But to answer your question - it's plain and simple plant stress, trying to grow something in an area it isn't suited for. (and light is the number one reason for slow leaf drop)

Half of my poinsettia is wilted.

I do not have a clue what is wrong with my poinsettia plant. I have brought this plant back to life after our very cold winter last year. It is potted in a large pot and has gotten to be 3'-4' around with two large branches. It started wilting two weeks ago, I would water it and it would plump back up. This week it wilted, I watered and only half has come back to full life. I have checked the plant for visible signs of damage and find none. I life in Jacksonville, Fl and keep it on a porch that only gets part sun. I was hoping to have it bloom for Christmas and now i'm worried that it will die.

Doug says you have a root rot. It happens with extremes of care/temperature/watering etc. You may or may not lose the plant if it's large enough. Generally, when the plant is small, and this kind of thing starts you just toss it.

Watch the watering - don't overwater as this is the single biggest cause of root problems. Only water when the soil is "just" dry to the touch - then soak.

My plant lost all leaves

I bought 4 tiny plants that stayed beautiful for over a month but have now lost ALL their leaves. The stem is still green and looks healthy (only 3 inches tall). I have kept them moist, but well drained, in my kitchen window with plenty of light (but no sun hitting them). Is it POSSIBLE to nurse them along and they will bud out leaves again?

Doug says that anything is possible - some things are more likely than others though. :-)

Read the growing and watering instructions here and good luck with it.

poinsettia Yellow leaves

I successfully propagated my poinsettia from last Christmas. I have the mama plant and 2 babies in 4 inch pots. All 3 have been very happy. Recently(it is October), the lower leaves are turning yellow and dropping (it is a much paler green than it once was, too). I went away last week so they were under-watered once, however it started before this. I was not going to attempt to rebloom them this year due to a hectic schedule, but if I have to for their survival, I will. Thanks!

Doug says that pale leaves are usually underfeeding and lack of light. Yellowing leaves have nothing to do with reblooming. They have everything to do with poor watering and stress. Here's the page that describes leaf drop (yellow leaves are the first step). And once it starts, it is very difficult to stop without great care.

Good luck - that's a very small pot for a very big plant to survive in for an entire year.

Sudden Leaf Droop

I've had a light-green poinsettia on my desk since Christmas. It has been doing great--rarely even dropped a lower leaf. It looked fine when I left work on Friday but was all droopy on Monday. I have no idea why. I watered it Friday, so it wasn't dry. Can I do anything to save it?

Doug says once a poinsettia starts to droop and drop leaves, it's almost 99% sure the plant is going to drop all of them. The odd time it will resprout if you correct the problem immediately. So whether it was too cold, too much plant food, too wet, too dry, too ?? - it drops leaves as a symptom of unhappiness.

Hard to know from here what's going on but if you maintain an even watering (neither too wet or too dry) and then when it (if it) starts to releaf, feed it (not before) you may indeed bring it back.

Otherwise, it's compost. Sorry...

Can poinsettia leaves grow back?

Well, My poinsettia seems to be almost dead but the steam is still green and their are some leaves but all the flowers have disappeared. I really love my poinsettia, so I was wondering if I watered it every day and kept it in the environment it is meant to be in, it would possibly grow back the leaves?

Doug says that once a poinsettia has lost its leaves, it's almost certainly dead. The "odd" one might come back if the conditions are right for it but don't bet the farm or hold your breath. The really honest answer is that if the conditions were right for it to drop its leaves, the conditions are right for it to die. (sorry) So figure out in the articles on how to grow them and then change whatever happened to the right condition. If you do that, then it might live/regrow but again, it's not likely.

Poinsettia turning black

The red leaves on my plant are turning black. Not dried up, just black. Gradually get darker and darker till they are black. The green leaves are fine. What is the problem?

Doug says whatever it is, it isn't good. Generally when the soil is too wet, we'll see darkening of the bracts before they die. So that would be my first guess - overwatering. And that's going to lead to a sudden collapse of the entire plant when the root system goes.

So - use the finger test on the soil to determine if it needs water. Touch the soil - if your finger comes away damp then ignore. If the finger comes away dry, then soak the plant. Do this at least once a day at the same time to get a good sense of how much water your plant is consuming (it will be different in every house - there is no one size fits all rule of watering with indoor plants).

Black leaves on poinsettia plants aren't a good thing. Another symptom will be the drying and browning of the very edges and tips of the leaves - that's another sign of poor watering (under or over) And yes, it does seem this is a tightrope kind of thing. :-)

Good luck to all

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