The poinsettia plant is a perennial. Yes, they really are. The indoor plant you use to decorate during the holidays is actually a flowering shrub. Use these tips on how to keep your poinsettia plant alive this year to enjoy it year-round.
The signature plant of the Holiday season is beautiful red poinsettias. They start to appear on the market in late November and are still available for purchase through the first week of January. What I have found is that by the third week of December, most people have killed the beautiful plant and when no one is looking, sneak out to the garden store and buy another one. It happens every year, time and time again. I feel so bad for the plant… and always wonder why people have such a hard time with this plant.
Red is the most popular color but in recent years I have seen everything from speckled pink to blue ones. Not too many people know that the color of the poinsettia has an impact on the life of the plant when used as the typical houseplant during the Christmas season. Red is the most durable with white being the most finickiest with pink right in the middle. If you want a poinsettia to last for 6 weeks inside your home, go with red.
Learn some helpful hints on how to take care of your poinsettias so they will last a wee bit longer.
How to Keep Your Poinsettias Alive This Year
1. Poinsettias do not like to be watered from the top down. They prefer to be watered by being placed in a basin of water with at least 2″ of water in it. Let the plant soak the water up from the bottom for at least 2 hours. This is the best way to water the plant every 2-3 days depending on how dry your home is.
2. While the plant is soaking up water, this is the best time to remove any damaged leaves and debris on the soil level.
3. Make sure the soil is moist to the touch, but never allow it to become soggy or completely dry out. If the plant’s petals start to curl up, get that plant in water pronto.
4. Display the poinsettia in a bright part of your home, but NOT in direct sunlight. Don’t forget that the large leafy petals (not really leaves) are sensitive to burning, especially from a window.
5. Keep your poinsettia plants away from all heat sources, especially heat vents. The best temperature in your home for poinsettias is between 60-70 degrees. Poinsettias will not tolerate hot air blowing on them (so keep Aunt Edna away) as they start to wilt quickly from the result of heat exposure.
6. While the poinsettia is blooming – when the bracts are showing their color like red, pink, or white – do not give it fertilizer. This will stop the poinsettia from turning into the beautiful colors you enjoy. After it has stopped flowering, give your poinsettia indoor plant food once a month.
7. Poinsettias are only mildly poisonous – but the milky substance from their leaves can cause skin irritation. If you get this on you, wash your hands thoroughly right away. Keep your hands away from your face.
8. Want to make your Poinsettias sparkle? Spray a little glitter on the leaves. It is quite pretty!
Caring for Poinsettias after the Holidays
After blooming the poinsettias will enter a period of slow growth. The colorful bracts fade and the leaves drop. This is often when people toss them out. Instead, allow your plant a rest period. Water once a week and fertilize once a month.
Cut back the stems to half their length in April. When new growth begins to appear on your plant, it’s safe to resume a more normal watering schedule.
You can move your poinsettia plant outdoors when the nighttime temperatures stay above 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the night. Put your plant in an area that gets light, but avoid direct sunlight.
If your area gets cold in the fall and winter, you will want to keep it in a pot instead of transplanting to your flower garden.
Bring your poinsettias in when the temperature drops in the fall. Then follow the directions below for getting your poinsettia to rebloom.
How to Transplant a Poinsettia
If your poinsettia becomes root bound, you can repot it into a larger container. This is usually done during the summer months.
Choosing the Container
The new container must have enough holes to ensure adequate drainage.
Although you want to use a larger container, the new container should only be slightly larger. Choose a container that has a diameter that is 2 inches larger than the previous container.
Choosing the Soil
Poinsettia plants need a loose, porous, and well-draining soil.
Choose a good quality premixed potting soil that has been pasteurized to kill any pathogens.
If you wish to make your own soil mixture, combine :
- 3 parts sterilized soil
- 2 parts organic matter such as sterile compost
- 1 part perlite or vermiculite
Removing the Poinsettia
- Water the poinsettia root mass a day before you transplant it.
- 1 – 2 days after watering, remove the poinsettia from its current planter by turning it upside down while keeping one hand on the soil to hold the soil in place.
- If there are any diseased roots, cut them off with a clean, sharp knife.
- If the roots are in a tight mass, they should be gently loosened.
Repotting the Poinsettia
- Damp potting soil should be placed at the bottom of the larger container. The soil should be in a thick enough layer that the top of the poinsettia root mass will be about an inch below the lip of the container.
- Place the poinsettia in the container, then gently add damp potting soil into the space around the roots. If needed, add damp soil above the root mass. Then gently press the soil down.
- Water the plant thoroughly.
How to Get a Poinsettia to Rebloom
When fall temperatures begin to drop, bring any outdoor poinsettias inside.
From October 1 to December 1, your poinsettia plant requires a strict light/dark regimen to bloom. You must provide the plants with 13 to 16 hours of complete and uninterrupted darkness daily. At dusk, place your plant in a dark room (many people use a closet) or cover the plant with a box or paper bag. In the morning, move or uncover the plant to allow eight hours of indirect sunlight.
I hope these tips on how to keep your poinsettia alive this year help you care for your plant so you can see it rebloom next year.
More Winter Gardening Tips
Thanks to Kristi T. for sharing her tips on how to care for poinsettias.