Stem elongation of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Klotz.) was quantified using an approach that explicitly modelled the three phases of a sigmoidal growth curve: 1) an initial lag phase characterized by an exponentially increasing stem length, 2) a phase in which elongation is nearly linear, and 3) a plateau phase in which elongation rate declines as stem length reaches an asymptotic maximum. For each growth phase, suitable mathematical functions were selected for smooth height and slope transitions between phases. The three growth phases were linked to developmental events, particularly flower initiation and the first observation of a visible flower bud. The model was fit to a data set of single-stemmed poinsettia grown with vegetative periods of 13, 26, or 54 days, resulting in excellent conformance (R2 = 0.99). The model was validated against two independent data sets, and the elongation pattern was similar to that predicted by the model, particularly during the linear and plateau phases. The model was formulated to allow dynamic simulation or adaptation in a graphical control chart. Model parameters in the three-phase function have clear biological meaning. The function is particularly suited to situations in which identification of growth phases in relation to developmental and horticultural variables is an important objective. Further validation under a range of conditions is required before the model can be applied to horticultural situations.