This iconic holiday plant has tropical roots. Get tips on keeping your poinsettia looking its best all year.
Perhaps no flower represents the winter holidays like the poinsettia. However, these festive plants, which range from the traditional red to pale yellow, can be mysterious when it comes to care and maintenance. Here are some tips on poinsettia care that can help extend those blooms as long as possible – and maybe even encourage your poinsettia to bloom again next year:
Warm and Bright: It may seem strange due to their holiday connotations, but poinsettias are tropical plants. Provide lots of sunlight — a sunny window with east, west, or southern exposure is best. Also try to keep the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees F during the day, keeping in mind that the area around a drafty window can be quite a bit cooler than the rest of the room. If your plant’s leaves are touching a cold window, they may drop off. At night, poinsettias like a slightly lower temperature (55 – 60 degrees F), but avoid drastic drops in temperatures.
Hydrated and Humid: Make sure to water the poinsettia whenever the surface of the soil feels dry. Give the plant a good watering, but don’t flood or soak it – gravel in the bottom of the pot will help keep the roots dry. If your home is dry during the winter months, a humidifier or plant mister can help your plant stay hydrated.
Prevent Leaf Loss: If your plant starts to lose leaves, there are a few likely culprits: is the plant resting against a cold window or near a draft? Is it too warm or dry in the room? Is the plant thirsty?
With correct care, poinsettias can be encouraged to re-bloom next holiday, but it’s a touchy and time-consuming process that not all poinsettia fans are prepared for.
Save for the Coming Year: First of all, after bloom time, in the spring, poinsettias can benefit from a period of semi-dormancy. You should slow down the watering to weekly at most. Old leaves may shrivel and drop; this is perfectly okay! At this time, you can cut back the plant’s stems to encourage fresh growth. At this point, when things warm up a bit in spring, it is okay to put it outdoors in a sheltered location such as a covered porch or patio. Pinch back the plant throughout the growing seasons to keep it compact and bushy; poinsettias can get quite large! Repot into a larger container if necessary.
Prepping the Plant for Bloom: Now, to get it to bloom! It may still be warm in early October, but now it is time to bring it indoors. Every night for at least 6 weeks, put the poinsettia in a completely dark room, like a laundry room or closet, for about 14-16 hours EVERY night. The change in photoperiod is what encourages the poinsettia to change color and bloom. This will happen naturally outdoors, but not in time to have a color change by Christmas, and the plant cannot endure the cooler weather outdoors, so the dark room indoors is the preferred method.
Showing Its Holiday Cheer: After doing this throughout October and November, the tops leaves of the plant should emerge red (or white, or pink, depending on your variety), and it should bloom! The showy part of the poinsettia are the leaves, but small yellow flower will emerge from the red fresh growth.