How to Propagate Poinsettia Plants from Cuttings

How to Propagate Poinsettia Plants from Cuttings

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.

A close up vertical picture of a bright red poinsettia plant growing in a white pot set on a dining room table with a window and chair in the background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.Wait for New Growth

To grow poinsettias from cuttings you’ll need to start with a live plant and wait until spring or summer.

A close up horizontal image of a Christmas flower displaying new active growth.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 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:

  1. A poinsettia plant with active, green growth.
  2. A sterilized, sharp pair of pruners or scissors.
  3. Sterilized growing containers, such as small nursery pots, plastic cups, or a seed starting flat.
  4. Growing medium, such as coconut coir, potting soil, or a mixture of vermiculite and perlite.
  5. A humidity dome or transparent plastic bag to cover the pot.
  6. A mister or spray bottle.
  7. Four- or six-inch pots for potting up rooted cuttings.
  8. Gardening or rubber gloves (optional).
  9. 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.

A close up horizontal image of the sap from a poinsettia plant.Photo by Clare Groom.

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.

Growing Tray with Humidity Dome

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.

A close up square image of a soilless coconut coir mix for starting seeds or propagating cuttings.Prococo Compressed Chips-N-Fiber

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.

A close up horizontal image of a mixture of vermiculite and perlite for rooting a cutting set on a wooden surface pictured on a soft focus background.Mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Photo by Clare Groom.

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.

A close up horizontal image of a gloved hand from the left of the frame grasping a stem with a pair of pruning shears cutting it off the plant.Photo by Clare Groom.

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 close up horizontal image of a hand from the right of the frame applying rooting hormone to the end of a stem cutting.Photo by Clare Groom.

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.

A close up square image of the packaging for Olivia's Cloning Gel pictured on a white background.Olivia’s Cloning Gel

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 close up horizontal image of a hand from the right of the frame misting water from a spray bottle onto a newly planted cutting.Photo by Clare Groom.

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.

16-ounce Clear Glass Spray Bottle

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.

A close up horizontal image of a stem cutting with a plastic humidity dome over the top of it placed in a greenhouse.Photo by Clare Groom.

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.

A vertical image of a newly planted stem cutting in a small red plastic pot pictured on a soft focus background.Photo by Clare Groom.

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.

A horizontal image of a commercial greenhouse filled with Christmas flowers that have yet to flower and develop colorful bracts.A close up horizontal image of a hand from the left of the frame pinching off the growing tip from a plant pictured on a soft focus background.Photo by Clare Groom.

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 plants – they only flower after being exposed to long, pitch black nights.

A close up horizontal image of a large mature Christmas flower with bright red bracts in a gold decorative pot growing indoors.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.

A close up horizontal image of the bright red bracts of the poinsettia plant pictured on a soft focus background.poinsettias make sure to check out our other articles about these winter blooming plants:

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.

“How to Propagate Poinsettia Plants from Cuttings” was first posted here

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