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The Proper Care and Keeping of Poinsettias

If you’re like most people, you grab a bunch of poinsettias to cheer up your home for the holidays, to realize a few days later, “Wait, this is a plant and I have no idea how much to water it, how much sunlight it needs, or where I should keep it.” You are not alone! While the poinsettia is a ubiquitous staple of Christmas décor, it’s also a living plant that needs sunlight and water. What most people don’t know is that with the proper care, poinsettias can last for years, blooming every Christmas season.

Here’s a challenge: take care of your poinsettias so well that they last until next Christmas! Here’s how:

  1. Start strong by choosing a healthy poinsettia plant.

Be sure to get a strong start by choosing the healthiest poinsettia plants you can find. Make sure the bracts are bright red in color (the actual flower part of this plant are the tiny yellow centers.) Be sure your poinsettia has dense, healthy foliage all the way down to the soil. The plant should be about twice the size of its container, and feature strong, stiff stems with no signs of wilting or damage.

  1. Transport your new poinsettias with care.

What you don’t want to do is to plop your poinsettia in the back of your pickup truck and let your plants catch a frigid wind in transport. Ideally, you want to protect them in transit by keeping them in a loose plastic bag or by making sure they don’t fall over or get damaged in the car on the way home.

  1. Place your poinsettia in indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours a day.

You don’t want to fry your poinsettia in hot sunlight, but you also don’t want to keep it in a dark broom closet, either. The poinsettia plant likes partial sun, so position it not too far from a window so it can get some rays during the daylight hours.

  1. Keep your poinsettia between 68 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your poinsettia likes the house the same temperature you do: moderately warm. It doesn’t like cold drafts from doors or windows, so be sure to keep it in a place where it won’t experience any chill, as poinsettias do not fare well in temperatures below 50 degrees. Also be sure to keep your poinsettia away from any heat registers, so it doesn’t dry out. Think of your poinsettia plant like Goldilocks. It doesn’t want to be too hot, it doesn’t want to be too cold, it wants to be “just right.”

  1. When the soil feels dry to the touch, water it thoroughly.

Every other day or so, check the soil of your poinsettia plant to ensure that it’s not too dry. Poinsettias like moist soil, especially in dry winter climates. When the soil feels dry, take it over to a large sink and run water over it until water comes out the bottom of the container. But remember: don’t allow your poinsettias to sit in standing water! They don’t like wet feet!

  1. Don’t fertilize your poinsettia when it’s in full bloom.

You don’t want to fertilize your poinsettia plant when it’s in full bloom. Wait until the bright red leaves fall off in the spring. This leads us to the ever-important post-holiday care rules for your poinsettia plant.

What Do I Do With My Poinsettia After the Holidays?

The end of the holidays doesn’t have to be the end of your poinsettias. It takes a little bit of work to get your poinsettia to come back another year, but with a little tender loving care, you’ll have beautiful poinsettias for years to come! Here’s how:

  1. When springtime rolls around, get out the scissors!

Around April, when the bright red leaves start falling off, it’s time to start snipping. Cut the plant back, leaving four to six buds.

  1. Keep the poinsettia warm, but not too warm.

In the spring and fall, keep the plant near a sunny window, but in the summer, move it so it avoids hot afternoon sun. Be sure the poinsettia gets uninterrupted darkness at night and stays between 68 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Trim your poinsettia around the fourth of July and again around Labor Day.

Don’t put those scissors away yet! After your first trim in April, you’re going to see a lot of growth through May, especially if you keep the plant by a sunny window. To encourage more compact, vigorous growth, trim your poinsettia throughout the seasons.

Your poinsettia will start to bloom in the autumn as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. In September and October, you’ll notice that the plant will start producing more yellow flowers. Around early October, be sure to introduce uninterrupted 12-hour nights of full darkness for your poinsettia plant (so no night lights!) With dark, restful nights and moderate daylight, you’ll notice that your poinsettia will produce bright, colorful blooms just in time for Christmas.

Some people take care of their poinsettias over summer so they can challenge themselves to make it last through the year. Others think the plant looks beautiful even when it’s not in full bloom, and adds a little bit of bright color and greenery to the indoors throughout the year. With the proper care, your poinsettia can last all year and beyond.

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