Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a poinsettia! This traditional sign of the season is popular from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day for holiday decorating and gift-giving. It is no wonder that it holds the honored distinction of being the number one potted plant sold in the United States.
So, what now? How do you care for your poinsettia after the holiday celebrations end? Can poinsettias be forced into bloom again to enjoy next year? Allow us to provide you with the information you’ll need to care for your poinsettia now and throughout the year and the steps required to encourage a rebloom for the next holiday season.
Care When in Bloom
During the holidays, while your poinsettia is in bloom, keep it in bright, indirect sunlight for at least six hours a day. If direct sun can’t be avoided, diffuse the light with a shade or sheer curtain to prevent burns that can discolor the bracts (the colorful, modified leaves) or dry the plant out too quickly.
Poinsettia should be provided with room temperatures between 68 -70°F. Generally, if you are comfortable, so is your poinsettia. Keep plants away from cold drafts and excessive heat as both cause leaf drop. Take precautions to avoid having bracts and leaves touch cold windowpanes during the winter months. Poinsettias are sensitive to cold, so do not place them outside in winter. Temperature below 50°F will harm them, and a frost will kill them.
Keep the humidity high! Poinsettias love humidity. You can do this by grouping houseplants together, setting your poinsettia on a pebble tray with water, running a humidifier, or regularly spritzing the plant with water.
Poinsettias like moist but not wet soil. Water poinsettias when the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch. Water the soil and not the leaves. Using room temperature, distilled water is best. If you must use tap water, allow it to stand for 24 hours before watering so chemicals can evaporate out of the water. Avoid overwatering your plant; do not allow it to sit in standing water.
Do not fertilize your poinsettia when it is in bloom.
Care When Out of Bloom
- Through March, continue to care for your Poinsettia as advised above under Care When in Bloom.
- Beginning in April, when the bracts have turned to a dingy green, reduce but do not cease watering. Allow the leaves to drop and the stems to shrivel slightly. At this time, be sure to provide the plant with adequate air circulation and temperatures around 60°
- In May, cut the poinsettia stems back to about four to six inches in height. Repot the plant in a slightly larger pot with fresh, nutritious, well-draining potting soil. Water the plant thoroughly. Place it in a sunny window in a room with temperatures around 65° to 75°F and keep the soil moist. When you begin seeing new growth at the end of the month, start fertilizing bi-weekly, with ½ strength liquid houseplant food listed for flowering plants.
- June is when you will give your Poinsettia an outdoor vacation. Place the plant in a partially shaded location where it is protected from the intense Tucson afternoon sun. Continue watering and fertilizing regularly.
- When July rolls around, begin pinching your Poinsettia to encourage side branching. This will produce a full plant with lots of colorful bracts. Pinch the terminal stems about 1 inch. Continue watering and fertilizing regularly.
- From August 1st to the beginning of September, pinch the terminal growth one more time. After this final pinch, bring your poinsettia back inside and place it in a sunny location. Continue watering and fertilizing regularly.
- Beginning October 1st, in order to initiate buds, poinsettias must be kept in complete, uninterrupted darkness for 14 hours every night! To accomplish this, place the poinsettia in a dark closet, a large box, or an unused room with blackout curtains each night for 8 to 10 weeks. During this time, be sure to provide the plant with 6 hours of sunlight daily and temperatures between 68° and 70° Continue watering and fertilizing regularly.
- In December, when the 8 to 10 weeks of night-time darkness have been completed, bracts will color up, and Care When in Bloom should resume.
Caring for your poinsettia after the holidays is easy. Getting your poinsettia to rebloom is a bit more tricky but fun attempt. Green Things recommends taking the easy route and purchasing a fresh, healthy, colorful, new poinsettia each holiday season.