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8 Causes of Poinsettia Wilting (And How to Revive)

A cheerful Poinsettia adds the perfect splash of holiday color, but limp, wilting leaves often dim its radiance.

They’re known for being challenging to keep alive, but their drooping leaves are a friendly plea for attention.

Once you’ve mastered their language, these endearing Christmas classics will be a joy to have around the house long after the holiday.

Poinsettias don’t like it when the temperature changes. Ensure there are no drafts and the temperature is between 60-70°F (15-21°C) with an atmospheric humidity of 30% or higher.

Wilting can also be caused by under-watering, over-watering, and root rot. Finally, remove any wrappings or other decorative elements from gifted plants for the best growth.

Sharp Changes in Temperature

Surprisingly, a drafty environment is the leading cause of wilting Poinsettia leaves.

These glamorous divas can’t stand sudden gusts of cold air and don’t like hurried breaths of hot air.

So they’ll show their displeasure with the weather by drooping their leaves whether the air is cool or warm.

Solution

Make sure the Poinsettia is in a place where the temperature stays the same. Check that they are not too close to vents, fans, or climate control systems.

If unsure, light a stick or cone of incense to test for poor airflow. Smoke should gently spiral upwards toward the ceiling.

Moving your Poinsettia to a more regular part of your growing environment is recommended if the smoke is blowing in unexpected directions, indicating the presence of an unseen draft.

Underwatering

If you haven’t watered your Poinsettia in a while because you’ve been too busy, it may start to look sad and wilted.

This is because cells in a plant’s leaves can store water, and the pressure of hydrated tissue is then used to support the plant.

This is called turgor, and the Poinsettia will not be able to keep it if the soil is too dry. As a result, the leaves will flop and wilt.

Insufficient watering can cause Poinsettia’s soil to dry and crumble and the pot to become noticeably light.

Solution

A dry Poinsettia will appreciate the generous helping of pure, filtered water. I like to water a sad-looking Poinsettia from below. By doing so, the water can reach the roots more quickly.

How to Water Poinsettia From Below

You will need:

  • Large basin or tub
  • Plenty of clean water – rainwater is best but distilled or filtered water is fine too.

To water from below:

Remove the Poinsettia from its drip tray and place it, pot and all, in your basin or tub.

  1. Fill the tub with water until it reaches two-thirds up the pot’s side.
  2. Allow the plant to soak for 15 to 30 minutes in the tub. The drainage holes allow water to seep into the potting mix, saturating the soil from the bottom up.
  3. Maintain the depth of the water by topping it off.
  4. Allow the Poinsettia to drain for an additional 15 minutes.
  5. Return the plant to its drip tray or saucer. If any water drips appear, make sure to empty the tray.

Overwatering

The soil should be consistently moist without being soggy or waterlogged for poinsettias to thrive.

Overwatering them is straightforward, resulting in flooded soils and stressed unresponsive roots.

The Poinsettia cannot survive without the presence of tiny air spaces in the soil.

The roots’ ability to absorb soil moisture and nutrients depends on the company of those small air pockets. So they give up, and the leaves droop and look sad.

Check out the potting mix in Poinsettia’s container. Soil that never dries to the touch has a stale odor and may even have mold or algae growing on the surface are all symptoms of overwatering.

The oldest leaves are most at risk, as they are the ones to wilt and fall off.

Solution

A Poinsettia that has been overwatered can be quickly revived if the problem is caught in time.

First, stop watering the plants and let the ground dry out. You should also empty any drip trays or saucers that have standing water.

Next, take the Poinsettia out of its container and tap it gently to expose the roots.

Healthy roots should be a creamy color, somewhere between beige and a very light gray. They should only smell like dirt or, at most, a light mushroomy smell that shows the soil is healthy.

Be sure to only water the top inch or so of soil when it feels dry. Then, they won’t require much as the year progresses.

Root Rot

Root rot in poinsettias is a sad result of overwatering them for an extended period.

Eventually, the poor Poinsettia will die if its roots are allowed to sit in water, where they will become overworked and eventually suffocate.

Next, the entire root system starts to rot away, starting with the thin, exposed roots at the surface.

Finally, the soil’s beneficial microbes turn on the Poinsettia plant itself, feasting on the dying plant’s decaying roots.

Signs of root rot in a Poinsettia plant include a musty odor from the soil, discolored roots, and soft, mushy stems.

The roots themselves become black and brittle. The leaves on your plant will turn a dull yellow or brown, and the colorful bracts at the plant’s top will fall off.

If you want to save the Poinsettia, you must act quickly.

How to Fix

You will need to repot your Poinsettia to revive it. 

You will need:

  • Fresh, clean soil
  • Clean pot
  • Newspaper or tarpaulin
  • Sterile scissors or garden shears
  • Garden trowel or small spade
  • Large tub or basin
  • Plenty of clean water
  • Cinnamon powder(optional)

How to Repot a Poinsettia with Root Rot

  1. Begin by gathering your materials. Fill a large basin with clean water and ensure your tools are clean and sterile. Set up a tarpaulin or newspaper to protect your work surface.
  2. Remove the Poinsettia from its pot gently.
  3. Place the Poinsettia in the water basin and work the old soil away. Rinsing the roots will provide support while efficiently removing stagnant potting mix.
  4. Examine the roots of the Poinsettia on a tarpaulin or newspaper. Any black, brown, snapped, or damaged must be removed with sterile shears or scissors.
  5. Next, dust the roots of the Poinsettia with powdered cinnamon for the best results. Cinnamon contains antifungal compounds that occur naturally and promotes new root growth.
  6. Allow the roots of your Poinsettia to dry partially while you prepare your new pot and soil.
  7. Fill a clean pot two-thirds of the way with a new potting mix. Poinsettias require a rich, loamy soil rich in organic matter. I like to make my own by combining one part perlite, two parts coco coir or moss, and three parts potting soil. This will provide the ideal balance of moisture retention and drainage. Ensure your pot has at least three drainage holes to help drain the soil.
  8. Replant your trimmed Poinsettia in its new medium, ensuring the roots are well spread and completely covered.
  9. Allow it to drain thoroughly after filling it with fresh, clean water. Because the potting mix tends to settle during the first watering, you may need to top up the soil levels.
  10. Return the Poinsettia to its drip tray or saucer and keep an eye on it. You may need to empty any excess water that has accumulated. Maintain the tray’s dryness.
  11. Remove the old pot, soil, and water used to rinse the roots, and clean and sterilize your tools. Because root rot can be passed from plant to plant via dirty tools or contaminated pots and soil, never re-use material taken from a sick plant.

Too Hot And Dry Condition

Poinsettias are often used as holiday decorations, but they require constant attention all year to thrive.

Once summer arrives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these ornaments are alive and need the same care as any other plant, such as being kept in a cool, moist environment.

Temperatures no higher than 75°F (24°C) are ideal for poinsettias. While they don’t require a lot of humidity, the dry air inside also causes problems.

These lovely tropicals need a much higher humidity level than is typically found in most homes and offices (20%).

Solution

Move the Poinsettia to an area that is cooler and has more humidity. They will thrive if kept at 60-70°F (15-21°C). If you keep them well hydrated, a little warmer or cooler is fine.

They’ll thrive in slightly more humid conditions as well. Maintain a humidity level of 30 percent or higher.

Using a humidifier or even just a pebble tray underneath is all it takes to achieve this. I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both devices here.

Investing in equipment that will allow you to keep tabs on the conditions in which your plants are flourishing could be beneficial.

For example, a small weather station or combined thermometer/hygrometer (Amazon link) is an excellent tool for any indoor gardener because it allows you to monitor temperature and humidity confidently. 

Poinsettia Wilting After Repotting

No plant enjoys having its roots handled and exposed, and Poinsettias are no exception.

Any uprooting, no matter how gentle, will cause root damage. Before the roots recover, their performance may suffer.

Without strong roots, the Poinsettia cannot get water to its leaves, causing them to wilt. This is known as transplant shock, a common side effect of repotting.

Solution

There’s not much you can do for a newly repotted Poinsettia except waiting. They’ll return in time.

You can lessen the severity of the shock by being cautious when repotting. Poinsettias thrive when repotted during their active growing season.

Plant Poinsettias in late spring, around Memorial Day, if possible. This gives them the best opportunity to regrow and repair damaged roots.

Poinsettia Wilted Overnight

Because the Poinsettia prefers consistent temperatures, it can wilt overnight as the cool of the evening stresses the plant.

If overnight temperatures fall below a comfortable level, the Poinsettia will pout until the temperature rises.

If the Poinsettia is only wilted in the mornings but brightens up throughout the day, the problem is low overnight temperatures.

Solution

Make sure the temperature of the Poinsettia never falls below 50°F (10°C).

While they can tolerate small dips below their preferred temperature, anything below that is too cold, and they will begin to suffer cold-related damage.

Roots Have Given Up

Poinsettias are frequently purchased as gifts or ornaments in late November and December.

Unfortunately, this usually results in unfavorable conditions for the roots.

The lower leaves and roots of a Poinsettia are particularly terrified by the cheerful seasonal foil that is often wrapped around it at the beginning of the season.

Furthermore, plants kept for gift giving in grocery stores and the like are often poorly cared for, with insufficient light and inappropriate watering.

Once their time in the spotlight is over, these plants often struggle and die. The roots give out, the leaves wilt, and eventually, they die.

Solution

After receiving a gift plant, remove any decorations that may interfere with its natural function.

For example, the foil must be removed immediately, as should any tinsel or other decoration on the soil’s surface.

Check the soil moisture levels and ensure the potting mix is not compacted or too wet.

If the medium is too fluffy and light, or if the merry seasonal pot housing the Poinsettia lacks drainage holes, you may need to repot as described above.

I’d also recommend tapping the Poinsettia and inspecting the roots. While root is an ever-present threat, crisp, dry roots can also be an issue. A deep watering from below can bring them back to life.

You might be able to save your Poinsettia. But don’t give up if your best efforts fail to bring it back to life.

Many unscrupulous sellers regard the poor Poinsettia as a disposable decoration on par with a paper garland or a candy cane and never provide the Poinsettia with what it requires for a good foundation.

Unfortunately, there’s little you can do about it afterward.

How To Perk Up A Wilted Poinsettia

  1. Check the Poinsettia is free of drafts and is kept at around 60-70°F (15-21°C).
  2. Ensure gentle atmospheric humidity of at least 30% or more.
  3. If soil moisture levels have been neglected, water deeply from below.
  4. Water only when the top inch or so of soil is dry.
  5. Check for root rot, and repot if required.
  6. Remove any seasonal decorations, especially foil wrappers.