Caring for Poinsettias

By J.W. Carpenter , last updated March 24, 2011

Typically considered a decorative Christmas plant, people tend to discard their poinsettias after the holidays; however, properly caring for your poinsettias will produce beautiful and decorative displays in the future.

Native to Mexico, the poinsettia is known as a Christmas plant in North America due to its dark green leaves underlying a bright red crown. Though the red tops are typically thought to be flower petals, they are actually modified leaves, called bracts. The small flowers can be found at the center of each bract bunch. In addition to red, bracts can be pink, white, yellow, or pale green, though these varieties are far less popular.

Holiday Care

To retain your Poinsettia’s deep color long through the holidays, follow these basic tips. During the day, put your Poinsettia in the sunlight, positioned away from both cold windows and warm drafts from the air conditioning. Poinsettias prefer 60 to 70 degrees during the day and about 55 degrees at night. If your house stays warm around the clock, the plant’s blooming time may suffer. If possible, place your poinsettia in a cooler bedroom overnight.

Make sure the poinsettia’s container drains well and only water the plant when its top layer of soil has become dry. Note, however, that wilting due to lack of water tends to accelerate leaf drop. Never fertilize a poinsettia when it is in bloom.

After the Holidays

Once the bracts have lost color and fallen, cut the plant back so that only four to six buds remain. Maintain the same sun, water, and temperature regiment through the summer, adding a monthly dose of houseplant fertilizer to the soil.

Re-flowering

To induce re-flowering, put the poinsettia in total darkness for 15 hours each night beginning on October 1st. Place the plant in a cabinet or beneath an overturned box to ensure that it receives no light whatsoever. Any light exposure at all may jeopardize your success. In the first weeks of December, when the bright bloom has returned, you can revert to regular holiday care.

With the proper effort and care, your poinsettia will survive the year round, ready to bloom anew for the next holiday season.

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