Poinsettia Care: How Do You Take Care Of Poinsettias | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Poinsettia Care: How to Take Care of Poinsettia Flowers

The red poinsettia means Christmas to many, but it’s really a tropical euphorbia from Mexico.
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Doreen G. Howard

7 Tips for Holiday Poinsettia Plant Care

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How do you take care of poinsettia flowers to keep these holiday plants going strong? See our tips for keeping poinsettias happy and healthy. (Hint: Do NOT overwater!)

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) do need special care to keep blooming—and can be kept year after year to rebloom, if you give them proper care.

By the way, the showy red parts of Poinsettia plants are not the flowers; rather, they are modified leaves known as bracts. The actual “flower” on a poinsettia plant is the yellow bloom found right at the center of the bracts. They are plants that bloom when the days are shorter, making them perfect Christmas plants.

→ Why are poinsettias so popular at the holidays? See the story of the Poinsettia: An Unlikely Christmas Plant.

poinsettia-1461262_1920_full_width.jpgThe colored leaves, known as bracts, are not the poinsettia plant’s flowers.  They are the tiny yellow or orange buds in the center.

To get the longest-lasting poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing. And to get off to a good start, protect your new plant from cold temperatures and chilling winds on the way home from the store. As this is a tropical plant, don’t leave it in a cold car while you run other errands!


Poinsettia Care: 7 Tips to Follow

At home, follow these plant care tips:

  1. The plants require bright, indirect light during the day for the brightest color (at least 6 hours a day) so place near a well-lit window. East-facing windows are best. However, keep it out of direct sun, which could fade or burn the leaves.
  2. Avoid spots near heating vents and doors. Cold drafts will cause leaves to drop. No part of the plant should touch the cold glass. Excess heat can dry out the plants too much.
  3. Poinsettias favor semi-cool conditions. Keep temperatures between 65° and 70°F, ideally. Basically, maintain temperatures that are comfortable to people. Be sure to lower the thermostat at night so that plants cool off. 
  4. Keep the soil moist but be careful not to overwater, which is the most common cause of death. Only water when the top inch or two of soil feel dry to the touch. If underwatered, plants wilt and shed leaves.
  5. Don’t let the plant sit in water or water-filled sauces which causes root rot. Be careful to remove any foil which may gather water. Treat the saucers like water catchers and 30 minutes or so after a good watering detach it in the sink and let it all drain out.
  6. Fertilizer is never recommended while the plant is in bloom. Fertilize only if you decide to keep them after their holiday bloom. 
  7. Poinsettias like humidity. Add plants nearby to aide humidity. Use a humidifier or place plants on a tray filled with pebbles and water to increase relative humidity.

Keeping Poinsettias Year After Year

Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant. As holiday plants, they are raised in greenhouses in cool temperatures (60° to 72°F) with high humidity and light intensity, so it can be tricky to duplicate the ideal environment for poinsettias. If you wish to attempt to keep your poinsettia going, here are 7 steps:

  1. When the the bracts fall off or yellow, gradually withhold water so the soil’s no longer moist. But don’t let the soil go 100% dry. Water just enough to keep the stems from withering. 
  2. Then move the poinsettia to a cool, dark area (50 to 60°F), dry, dark area until spring.
  3. In April or May, put the plant back in a sunny location. Cut the branches down to just 6 inches about the soil level.

  4. At this point, many folks will repot the plant in fresh potting soil that has good drainage to avoid root rot. Water the new soil well, allowing it to drain away.

  5. Once the plant is growing actively, fertilize once a month with one tablespoon of a soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, per gallon of water) 

  6. Keep the poinsettia plant actively growing all summer by watering and fertilizing regularly. When the top of the soil feels dry, liberally apply water to moisten the soil completely, and allow the excess to drain away. Add no more water until the top of the soil is dry again.

  7. After the plant’s stems have grown about 10 inches, pinch off the tips of new shoots, keeping the strongest branches. This encourages a bushy plant. Continue to pinch once a month.

Related articles:

Learn how to keep your other Christmas plants alive.

Are poinsettias poisonous to pets or people