Why Your Poinsettia Is Dropping Leaves

Last Updated on December 2, 2022 by Stephanie

Although they arent the most durable plants, they can do fairly well for weeks even months if they are cared for correctly. However, seeing the leaves fall off of your otherwise happy poinsettia could cause your heart to pound like the hammer of a jackhammer. What is the reason for this and what can do to protect the Christmas Star from an untimely death?

Poinsettias typically drop their leaves when they feel stress. The most common reason is the sudden changes in temperature cold drafts, sudden temperature changes, or an extremely dry climate. The plant may also shed leaves (and occasionally bracts) due to extreme thirst, excessive watering, disease and pests.

Understanding whats causing the leaves of your poinsettia to fall off is only half the battle. Ill help you identify common issues that could be affecting your plants and the best way to deal with each.

How Long Do Poinsettias Last?

The life span of poinsettias is frequently a topic of controversy. One reason for this is the fact that these gorgeous tropical plants are now almost synonymous with Christmas time. Theyre actually thought of as one of the top-selling Christmas house plants in the US and all over the world.

Its easy to comprehend why the poinsettias are so beloved however. Their most prominent attraction is their gorgeous bracts. Theyre vibrant blooms of a modified plant that is often mistaken as flowers.

Furthermore, they can be found in a variety of size and colors that are perfect for gifts. Youve probably seen them in stunning hues of stunning reds, gorgeous pinks or stunning whites.

Poinsettias, a little wonder, are often closely associated with the holiday season, and this could as be the reason why the majority of people believe theyre not long-lasting.

The majority of poinsettias purchased during the winter season will last between four and six weeks before beginning dropping their leaves. This is typically a natural process of your plant entering the dormancy stage. This is the time when the majority of people throw away the poinsettia, thinking that its gone.

Bracts are usually the first to drop off. Contrary to popular belief the poinsettias may last longer than just a few weeks or even months.

If they are properly cared for They can last for many months. Dont believe me when I say that they can be revived, re-grow and re-bloom your Christmas poinsettias for years with a lot of attention to detail.

poinsettia flowers white and red

Causes of Poinsettia Leaves Dropping

[1] You Have Let the Soil Become Too Dry

If your poinsettia is severely submerged, it is likely to shed leaves and begin to wilt. The bracts of the flower and leaves are the first to suffer. They may appear limp and then wilt, before falling off.

If the soil is dry on the skin, it will be a sign that your poinsettia is thirsty. One thing Ive learned through trial and error is to determine if your soils evenly damp and the poinsettia is in good health prior to bringing your plant home from the shop or the nursery.

Solution

Then, give the poinsettia that is wilting an immediate soak. Be sure to water sufficiently and deeply, so that the excess water flows through drain holes. Allow your plant to sit in the run-off that has accumulated on the saucer for 15 to twenty minutes before dumping it away.

The leaves of your poinsettia will be able to recover their turgidity after a thorough irrigation. However, if stress has already begun to take its toll on the leaves the leaves will begin to become yellow and then fall off within a couple of days. Its not your fault, and theres nothing that you could do to help the damaged foliage at this moment.

[2] Overwatering

You wouldnt believe it! The poinsettias response will be the same way when treated with too much water, or when the soil has been allowed to get too dry. This is true. Your poinsettias leaves that have been overwatered will begin to wilt and then begin to fall off.

The cause of the leaf shed is not uncommon however it is a felony. If you allow your poinsettia to sit upon wet feet, the roots will drown and start to decay. This is because the roots require oxygen for breathing as do us.

Therefore, the leaves will become yellow, wilt and fall despite the abundance of water in the roots. Other signs of an overwatered poinsettia are brown or pale leaves. It is also possible to notice small white spots on the leaves because of edema, which is a sign of a warning.

If the soil is damp or spongy, but your poinsettias leaves are turning brown it is a clear indication that youve overwatered it. Also, make sure to check your plant for signs of root rot, which is indicated by rusty or dark brown or mushy roots.

Solution

If youre in a serious situation like when severe root rot has developed the root, you might not be in a position to revive the poinsettia. It is better to replace it with a different poinsettia.

Fortunately, your slightly overwatered poinsettia will recover.

  • However, you must make some drastic changes starting with to stop watering your plant as soon as you notice.
  • Then, ensure that the container has drainage holes. If you just bought or received your poinsettias, make sure to take off the wrapping sleeves. It could be blocking the excess liquid from draining.
  • Remove your plant from the pot and let the soil dry out through placing the plant on the cover of a magazine.
  • If you notice any signs that the root is rotting, its best to clean the roots. Get rid of all the soil and trim the affected roots.
  • The treatment of the healthy roots with sulfur-based or copper-based fungicides can help stop further spread. Include hydrogen peroxide in the soil mix prior to repotting your plant.
  • To get the best results, you should use the latest terracotta pot as well as an unopened bag of peat-based pots and potting mix

How Often Should You Water A Poinsettia?

As a seasoned homeowner of houseplants I have a trick in the sleeves that keeps my poinsettia in good condition. It is not necessary to adhere to a watering calendar. Instead let your poinsettia inform you when it requires water.

This is where our trusted Finger moisture tests come in. Place your index finger in the soil every three or four days. Water should be applied only when the top couple of inches (up to that second joint on your fingers) is dry. If the soil remains wet, you should check it again after a few days.

In terms about watering, you must sprinkle your flowers with water until excess liquid drains away in the dish. The soil should absorb the water for about 15 minutes, then empty the excess.

[3] Sudden Temperature Changes and Extreme Cold

It may seem odd to have an ornamental house plant to bloom beautifully during the winter nights however, cold is the poinsettias number one enemy. Even a brief exposure to frost, cold drafts or a temperature of less than 50 degrees (10degC) could cause damage to the plant.

Its the same for being exposed to hot drafts or direct sunlight. There are also abrupt fluctuations in temperatures. The poinsettia will not be content in the least and will become upset. In the process, it will show its frustration by shedding bracts as well as leaves.

The older and lower leaves will be the first ones to go. If the stress on the temperature is extended the drop of leaves will increase. It will be a surprise to see your poinsettia nearly completely naked, with just two sets of foliage and bracts with colored bracts on top.

Solution

Avoid exposure to cold temperatures immediately from the beginning. Inform the seller to wrap your gift with a blanket of insulation to shield it from freezing cold while returning it to your to your home.

A proper care for your home can help to prevent leaf fall. The first step is to keep your poinsettia in warmer temperatures during the daytime of up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24degC). In the evening, they like somewhat cooler temperatures within the optimal range between 60 and 65degF (15-18degC).

Additionally, be sure to keep your ornaments away from drafty or windy doors, windows, or cooling vents. Place it in a sunny area which receives only bright, indirect sunlight.

It can be placed near radiators or heating elements, however, keep it away from direct heat sources or drafty heating vents or fireplaces.

[4] Diseases

A sickly or diseased poinsettia can be a troublesome plant which will show signs of distress through the loss of leaves. It is recommended to check it frequently for the presence of a variety of root, stem, and crown rots that are caused by pathogens such as Thielaviopsis, Pythium,or Rhizoctonia.

Bacterial Canker

This is a systemic bacterial wilt which can afflict bracts, crowns and leaves. It first manifests as brown cankers or as long streaks of water-soaked leaves. The spots can appear as brown necrotic spots on leaves prior to when they disappear. Be aware of long cracks on the stems too.

Solution

Get rid of plant debris immediately and improve the aeration. Beware of overhead watering and keep the temperatures consistently at or above 60 degrees F (15degC).

There isnt a chemical solution to treat this. It is necessary to dispose of the plant or parts and then bury them in the soil. Dont mix the compost with them because there are chances of spreading the infection.

Poinsettia Scab

It is caused by the fungus caused by Spot Anthracnose Poinsettia scab can be manifested by abnormally long nodes as well as numerous long, small, raised lesions that appear on the stems.

The stem cankers are pale buff, and are surrounded by a purple or reddish shimmer. Additionally, noticeable brown spots are visible on the upper part of leaves. The leaves turn inwards, become wilted and then fall off.

Solution

Remove any diseased poinsettias and cut off the affected areas. Spray your plants with copper or sulfur-based fungicide at between 7 and 10 days until the pathogens have gone. (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture)

Bacterial Blight and Cutting Rot

Botrytis Blight, which is the most frequent bacteria-related blight that can affect poinsettias. It can also cause stem canker as well being a cutting rot. The disease is the most severe when it is humid and hot. Leaves and cuttings typically form spots of water, eventually falling off.

Solution

Maintain a high standard of hygiene when you handle your poinsettia. Avoid watering from overhead or splashing water over the leaves. Make sure that the environment is well-aerated. It is essential to clean the mix prior to using. Prevention is the only method to treat bacterial infections.

Rhizoctonia Root and Crown Rot

The fungal infection is usually transmitted by splashing water. The leaves can be especially abrasive and can be seen as dry, brown canker appearing on cuttings. Lesions of tan color with brown or dark margins are visible on the stems, and can cause the plant to fall.

Solution

Do not fertilize your poinsettia in too deep when you repot it. Take out infected roots and crowns immediately. The remaining root strip should be dipped in fungicide prior to planting.

Pythium Root Rot

Poinsettias that are affected by Pythium typically flower and then shed their leaves early. The disease is caused by the moisture and excessive fertilization.

Solution

To prevent fungicides, apply sprays to kill fungus gnats Avoid overwatering and do not over-fertilize. Take care to control pests such as whiteflies the moment they show up. Utilize a fungicide that is specifically formulated for Pythium to manage.

Thielaviopsis Root Rot

Also called black root rot, Thielaviopsis root rot can be as perilous for your poinsettias as it is. Older leaves tend to change to yellowish-green while younger ones become stunted and show an orange tinge. Theyll begin to wilt and then fall off as time passes.

Solution

A clean and healthy environment is the most effective prevention here. Avoid soil pH that is high and expose your plant to temperatures that are low. To treat, look for Trichoderma biotech on Amazon. Fungicides such as benzimidazole have proved effective against Thielaviopsis.

[5] Does Your Poinsettia Have a Pest Infestation?

If your poinsettias leaves are shedding it isnt a good idea to rule out the possibility of a pest infestation. Whiteflies are particularly fond of lying around and sucking on your poinsettia. They make holes in the leaves and then pull out the sweet sap.

Unfortunately, these bugs sucking sap cause damage to the leaves. The leaves gradually turn yellow and disappear. Other insects that are common to poinsettias could include mealybugs spider mites, shoreflies as well as thrips and scale. They all give similar results to whiteflies.

The fungus gnatthat typically lives in the potting material, can be extremely destructive. It causes rot on the stems, foliage as well as the crown. If they cause Pythium root for example leaves fall off too early and bracts will flower too early.

Solution

The best way to prevent this is to check your poinsettia for insects prior to purchasing it or bringing it to the shop. They are especially invasive in greenhouses and nurseries that are not properly maintained. Be sure to separate your plant that is infested with insects from other plants in your home.

There are a myriad of methods and controls. They include rubbing alcohol, manual squishing, horticultural oils or neem oil and the insecticidal spray. It is also possible to wash away the bugs, but be sure you spray at 10 days intervals.

[6] Insufficient Light

Poinsettias are enthralled by direct or bright sunlight. However, exposing your plant directly to sunlight can be not a good idea as it could cause the leaves to change color and fall. Unfortunately, this can be overlooked for a long time, since poinsettias can take between two and three months to react negatively to light levels that are low.

Solution

Put your poinsettia in a sunny, south-facing area that is protected from direct sunlight by drapery or a curtain. The plant is also able to withstand some hours of sunlight however.

[7] Being Left Boxed or Wrapped for Too Long

Its likely that you received your poinsettia as an early Christmas present. Maybe you were impressed by its gorgeous bracts and decided to take the plant home in order to lighten up your home for the holiday season. But, if you dont take off the gift wrapping or take it out of the box when it arrives the leaves will fall.

Its true, this plant in the tropical zone produces ethylene, an odorless, toxic and invisibly odorless gas. The gas is usually absorbed immediately into the thin zone and is not a problem.

If you store your ornaments wrapped and sealed, the poison gas will be absorbed by the box or wrapping. In time, the concentration will be so high that it can alter the plant, which will cause leaves and bracts to fall off.

Solution

Take the wrapping sleeve off or box as soon as your poinsettia arrives at home. Be sure to have plenty of air circulation around the plant.

[8] Low Humidity

Poinsettias are tropical plants which thrive in humid conditions. Although they are tolerant of dry conditions, extreme low humidity (anything less than 30 percent) can cause the leaves to curl and then begin falling off. The leaves can be brown at the edges and the tips.

Solution

If your soil is drying faster than normal it is possible that the air around your plant could be drying out too much. Try misting it with an humidity tray or installing a humidifier to boost humidity. Moving your plants closer could also help.

[9] Too Much Fertilizer

The wrong fertilizer application could cause the leaves to fall. If you apply excessive amounts of it can cause the same result. This is particularly true when the soil is contaminated by an accumulation of salts as well as excessive levels of ammonium or boron. Similar effects can be observed when using water that has been softened or chlorinated.

Solution

Feed your poinsettia with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer for your houseplants in the early part of spring (March in the majority of US regions). Keep feeding it monthly through the entire summer. Reduce the strength of fertilizer by one-half or more if the leaves are falling.

Will My Poinsettia Leaves Grow Back?

Its up to you on the poinsettias condition. If its extremely ill, then there is no need to worry. In other cases, it is possible to re-grow the leaves. Even if all the leaves have been removed the poinsettia will still produce leaves after the dormancy time has ended. But, you have to be very careful with the plant in order to allow the growth of new leaves:

  • Stop watering after the foliage is gone. After that, put your plant in a sunny spot that receives indirect sunlight. Maintain temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees (10-13degC) all the way to early spring.
  • When new growth begins to emerge in the spring Cut your poinsettia back to 3-8 inches above the soils level.
  • You might want to consider repotting your plant in a pot that is 1-2 inches bigger than the one you had previously. Make a soil mix with 1 part perlite and 2 parts compost and 3 parts of potting mix.
  • Plant your plant in a bright, well-lit area. Be sure to stop watering when the soils top inch appears dry.
  • Fertilize with water-soluble fertilizers for houseplants every 7-10 days, using the suggested strength
  • To create a poinsettia that is bushy to grow, you can pinch new shoots near the edges, and be sure to leave at least two or three nodes on each new shoot. In each cluster of leaves, cut off the middle leaves , leaving just 3 to 5.
Stephanie

Stephanie

Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)