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How to Propagate a Poinsettia (Legally)

poinsettia with new growth
Once a poinsettia has plenty of new growth, you can take cuttings, but it might not be legal to do so.
Read on to find out why.

Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plants, hands down. They’re so popular that they make up ¼ of all potted plant purchases every single year. That’s pretty impressive for a plant that’s only sold for six weeks out of the entire year.

greenhouse filled with red poinsettia

It’s no wonder they’re everyone’s favorite holiday plant with their cheerful red foliage and bushy stature. You only need one to brighten up a whole corner of the room.

Yet, these beautiful plants often end up on the curb next to the Christmas tree at the end of the season. But there’s no need to toss them out. Poinsettia can be trained to regrow and turn red again the following season.

Don’t let your poinsettia end up like this in January.

I’ve detailed everything you need to know to keep your poinsettia going strong long after Christmas, and more importantly, how to bring it back to its full red glory next December.

You can read that article here.

But what if I told you you could also propagate your poinsettia if you keep it alive past Christmas too?

Not only would your parent plant be ready for the holidays the following year, but you could have plenty of new poinsettias to decorate your home with too.

There is one small catch, though. Depending on your poinsettia, you may not be able to propagate it legally.

I know, it’s funny to think that making more of a plant you bought and paid for could be breaking the law. But we’ll talk more about that later.

In the meantime, you’ve got to keep your poinsettia alive over the holidays to be able to take cuttings later on. And Lindsay gives us all the details you need to do just that. She not only gives great tips on how to keep your poinsettia looking great for Christmas, but she gives you a quick guide on general poinsettia care.

22 Tips to Keep Your Poinsettia Looking Great This Holiday Season & Beyond

But Tracey, what about that whole breaking-the-law-by-propagating-poinsettias thing you mentioned?

You may have noticed that poinsettias have changed quite a bit over the years.

It used to be that every store carried the bright red poinsettias we all know and love. And then one year, there were cream-colored poinsettias to choose from too, and soon after that, blushing pink poinsettias joined the mix.

You can now find spotted poinsettias, poinsettias that have variegated leaves; burgundy, pink, yellow, peach and green poinsettias too. And it’s not only the colors that are changing; it’s the shape. You can find poinsettias with leaves that are curly or wavy or even tiny to show off the tiny flower at the center of the bracts.

Peach colored poinsettia

These fantastical Christmas plants are created through careful breeding to achieve these specific results.

And like those hybrid tomatoes you grow in your garden every year, if you were to grow one of these fancy poinsettias from the seed of the parent plant, the new plant wouldn’t be the same.

You may be surprised to find the poinsettia you bring home for Christmas every year is a cutting from a parent plant. Your poinsettia is a clone.

Many of the poinsettia varieties for sale each Christmas are covered by plant patents.

After going to so much trouble to design and breed these beautiful poinsettia varieties, they’re often patented. This patent makes it illegal to reproduce the plant through cuttings and sell it or use any plants grown from illegal cuttings.

The original poinsettia plant introduced in the states in 1820 was patented for over a hundred years. But these days, plant patents only last for twenty years. Right now, there are well over a hundred varieties of poinsettias with patents.

Red poinsettia with spotted leaves, patented poinsettia

How do I know if my poinsettia is patented?

All poinsettias sold that hold a patent are labeled on the pot wrapper. Check the decorative wrapper that covers the nursery pot; there will usually be a sticker with the bar code and information about where the plant was grown and for what nursery. If the plant has a patent, it will say so on this sticker.

finger pointing to script on sticker that reads "unauthorized propagation prohibited"

If your plant is patented, don’t worry, it’s still pretty easy to find poinsettias that are no longer under a patent in stores. And you can propagate these varieties to your heart’s content. So, let’s learn how to propagate poinsettias.

How To Propagate A Poinsettia – Step-By-Step

New Growth is Important

While you may be tempted to take a few cuttings after Christmas and poke them in the soil, that’s not going to get you very far.

Your poinsettia has just spent the last couple of months pouring all of its energy into reproduction. Those colorful leaves we all enjoyed at Christmas were produced to attract pollinators to the tiny flowers at the center of each cluster of bracts.

Let Your Plant Rest

After the holidays, the poinsettia will continue to drop all of its leaves; this is completely normal.

Dropping leaves is totally normal behaviour after the holidays

Just continue to water your plant when it needs it and keep it in bright, indirect sunlight in temps between 60-70 degrees F.

Poinsettias don’t like wet feet, but they appreciate thorough watering. Water the plant when the first inch of soil is dry, but don’t let the soil dry out completely between waterings. It’s also a good time to ditch the fancy wrapping that came around the nursery pot, as sitting in standing water can lead to root rot.

In April, after your poinsettia has had a long winter’s nap, prune back the old growth from last year so that the stems are around 6” long.

Pruned poinsettia stems

You should also begin fertilizing your poinsettia once a month and repot it in a new pot no larger than 2” bigger than the nursery pot it came in. It’s always important to choose a pot with a drainage hole and be sure to use a quality potting mix that drains easily.

a woman repotting a poinsettia

You may notice that this is very similar to what you need to do to regrow your poinsettia and get it to turn red at Christmas. But after this point is where things start to differ.

If you’re looking to regrow your plant to enjoy its beautifully colored bracts over the holidays, you would start pinching back some of the new growth to encourage your plant to grow bushier.

But since we want cuttings, we will let the plant keep putting out new growth.

Taking Cuttings

A poinsettia with a lot of new green growth

Once the poinsettia has new stems over 4” long, you can snip them off to propagate. As always, when taking a cutting from a plant, it’s important to use sterile equipment, so you don’t introduce disease. Choose a stem that is between 2”-4” long and has at least two new leaves on it.

gloved hands making a poinsettia cutting

You may wish to use a rooting hormone to encourage healthy root development. Lindsay wrote about five common items that can be used in place of commercial rooting hormones.

5 Easy To Find And Scientifically Backed Natural Rooting Hormones

Place your cutting in a pot filled with moist coconut coir or a seed starting mix. Half of the cutting should be immersed in the soil.

Humidity and Bright Light

The key to getting a poinsettia to take root is a combination of good humidity and very bright (but not direct) light. Cover your cutting with a clear plastic bag (like a sandwich bag) to trap in the moist air and place it somewhere where it will get the most light.

Plant covered in clear plastic bag

To improve your chances of success, you may also wish to use a grow light. Check out the article below for help choosing the right light.

LED Grow Lights – Know the Truth vs the Enormous Hype

Mist the soil and leaves of your plant as soon as it begins to dry out to maintain the humid atmosphere the plant needs. It’s important that the plant stay warm too, between 60-70 degrees F. Cooler temperatures with all that moisture could cause the cutting to rot.

After about 3-4 weeks, the plant should have developed roots and a few more weeks after that; it will begin to put out new growth of its own. At this point, you can remove the clear plastic bag and begin fertilizing the plant once a month.

New poinsettia growing outdoors with bracts starting to turn red
New poinsettia plants can stay outside until late summer, early fall.

Water the plant as described above, and your new poinsettia will thrive. Once outside temperatures stay above 60 at night, you can even move your new plant outside for the summer. If you want it to turn color in time for Christmas, bring the plant back inside in late September and follow the routine I’ve outlined in this article.

That’s really all there is to it.

While propagating a poinsettia might be more akin to propagating a tree rather than a houseplant, it’s still easy enough to do.

With a little effort, you could be giving homegrown poinsettia as Christmas gifts next year.

Several propagated poinsettia in pots
Newly propagated poinsettias dreaming of Christmas.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,