Why is my poinsettia dropping leaves? - 5 possible reasons and what to do about it

Rejuvenate your poinsettia in time for Christmas

Poinsettia inside in pot
(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘Why is my poinsettia dropping leaves?’ is a common question that people ask themselves around the Christmas period. That’s because this festive plant is extremely sensitive and has very specific growing requirements.

With its red and green foliage and its striking appearance, poinsettias are often given as gifts and used as Christmas decor. But while you can do everything to understand how to care for a poinsettia, sometimes things don’t go to plan. Sometimes, the leaves start to drop, and you just don’t know why.

We’ve asked our experts to help us understand more about this phenomenon, and below you’ll find 5 possible reasons (and solutions) as to why your poinsettia could be dropping its leaves. 

Why is my poinsettia dropping leaves?

While we’d love to tell you that it’s normal for poinsettias to drop their leaves, that’s not the case. Ultimately, this plant will only drop its leaves if it’s in a state of stress or shock. Because of this, you need to act quickly if you want to save your poinsettia in time for Christmas. 

Poinsettia inside in pot

(Image credit: Future PLC)

1. It’s been overwatered

‘Incorrect watering practices can lead to leaf drop,’  explains Steve Chilton, gardening expert at LeisureBench. Unfortunately, these incorrect watering practices can be caused by the plastic or foil wrapper a poinsettia often comes in to make it look more festive. 

You should only water a poinsettia when the top inch of the soil is dry, but the wrapper can trap excess water and moisture, leading to overwatering and root rot. Visible signs of overwatering are wilting or yellowing leaves that will ultimately drop off. 

If your poinsettia has been dealing with root rot and overwatering for a while, you may struggle to bring it back to its former glory. But if it’s only been overwatered once, take off the plastic wrapper, make sure there are drainage holes in the pot, and let it dry out for a while. 

morrisons poinsettia

(Image credit: TBC)

Harry Bodell, gardening expert at PriceYourJob.co.uk, also stresses the importance of removing the wrapper as soon as possible - but for another reason. ‘Keeping the plant in this wrapping for too long can result in a build-up of ethylene gas which poinsettia naturally emits.’

‘In the open air it will diffuse, but if the plant is kept enclosed, the concentration of this gas can cause the leaves to fall off. To avoid this, take the plastic sleeve off the plant as soon as you get it home.’

Headshot of gardening expert Steve Chilton
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field and has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

2. It’s been underwatered

Just as overwatering can result in your poinsettia dropping its leaves, so can underwatering. And while this plant is native to the warm climates of Mexico and Central America, poinsettias in pots still require a regular watering schedule. 

If your poinsettia is underwatered, the leaves will turn brown at the tips and start to fall off. The soil will also be incredibly dry, even when you push your finger deep into the pot. 

The easiest way to revive an underwatered poinsettia is to water it and mist the leaves with water every day so it starts to perk up again. You could also place it on a pebble tray filled with water, but be sure to remove it as soon as you see that it’s healthy again to avoid overwatering. 

Once you’ve done that, make sure you keep on top of watering. Steve says, ‘I recommend watering your Poinsettia when the top inch of its soil feels dry, and make sure the pot has plenty of drainage holes in order to prevent waterlogging.’

Poinsettia inside on bench

(Image credit: Future PLC)

3. The humidity isn’t quite right

As they’re tropical plants, poinsettias require a lot of humidity to survive and thrive. That’s why it’s so important to mist them every day to maintain this high level of humidity. However, the wrong level of humidity can impact the health and well-being of the plant, ultimately forcing it to drop its leaves. 

The ideal humidity for growing a poinsettia plant is 50% - 75% relative humidity - which is a little bit higher than what the humidity of a room should be. And although we love the best dehumidifiers as much as the next guy, you may find that you need to keep the appliance away from your poinsettia if you suspect that it’s struggling with low humidity. 

But a poinsettia can also start to drop its leaves when it’s too humid, so a dehumidifier could be exactly what you need to bring your poinsettia back to life. Then, just make sure that you adjust your settings so you keep your house at a constant humidity level that keeps both your home and your plant happy. 

If you’re unsure what the humidity is in your house, the best way to check this is to use a hygrometer - like this ThermoPro TP49 Small Digital Hygrometer from Amazon.

Sofa in living room

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Brittain)

4. It’s too cold

Poinsettias are extremely sensitive to temperature changes. Harry explains, ‘Poinsettia doesn’t like extreme cold, so even taking it back from the shop you bought it from can cause the plant stress. Going from a warm environment to cold below 10°C even for a few minutes, can result in the poinsettia dropping some of its leaves.’

In general, poinsettias need to be kept in a room that has a minimum temperature of 13ºC, but Steve says to ‘Place your poinsettia in a location with a stable environment, anywhere between 18-24°C.’ 

Stability is incredibly important, which is why you should also steer clear of draughty doors and windows.  So, if you’ve been keeping your poinsettia on a windowsill or on a table in your hallway and you’ve noticed the leaves start to wilt and drop off, you need to move it as soon as you can. 

5. It’s not getting enough light

Are the leaves of your poinsettia limp and leaning towards a window or other light source? That’s a sure sign that it’s craving some extra light, and is not getting enough to grow in the way that it wants to. And after too much time away from this all-important light, the leaves will then start to fall off. 

‘Poinsettias require bright light to survive, so if they're in low light conditions then they won't be happy,’ explains Steve. ‘As well as this, if you move them from a bright location to a darker location, it can often result in leaf dropping. To prevent this, just make sure that it's getting enough sunlight, but not direct sunlight.

In fact, poinsettias need at least six hours of sunlight every single day. But while some people believe windowsills to be the perfect home for this plant, this location could also be doing more harm than good due to the draughts and the cold window panes. 

If you suspect that your poinsettia is not getting enough light, move it to a bright, warm, and relatively humid room. This could be on your kitchen island, on your living room coffee table, or on your bedside table. 

Poinsettia on kitchen table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

Where to buy a poinsettia

Hopefully, the information above should allow you to revive and rejuvenate your poinsettia in time for Christmas. But if you’ve waited too long, or you just want to add another poinsettia to your festive tablescape, these are our favourite places to buy poinsettias. 


How do you keep poinsettia leaves from falling off?

The best thing you can do for your poinsettia is to keep it in a warm and humid room, where it can get at least six hours of bright (but indirect) sunlight every single day. It’s also important to keep on top of watering, making sure that the soil never goes too dry, and making sure you give the plant a mist every day.

By doing all of those things, you should ensure that your poinsettia stays healthy and happy throughout the festive period. 

How often do you water a poinsettia?

The general rule of thumb is that you should water a poinsettia once a week, but it’s hard to follow a proper schedule with this particular plant. Instead, it’s best to regularly check the soil, making sure to water whenever you feel as though the soil is too dry. 

A poinsettia is the perfect Christmas plant, so don’t let dropping leaves ruin it for you. 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.