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 Poinsettia Plant Care, through the Holiday Season and Beyond

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Keep those poinsettia plants going strong, especially after the holidays! Poinsettias can even be kept year after year to rebloom if you give them proper care. See our tips on top mistakes to avoid.

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are the perfect Christmas plants that bloom when the days are shorter! By the way, the showy red parts of Poinsettia plants are not flowers; rather, they are modified leaves known as bracts. A poinsettia plant’s actual “flower” is the yellow bloom at the center of the bracts.

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

The colored leaves, known as bracts, are not the poinsettia plant’s flowers. They are the tiny yellow or orange buds in the center.>Getting Off to a Good StartIn the future, when choosing poinsettias, select plants with little or no yellow pollen, as they will bloom longer. Also, do not buy these tropical plants from an outdoor stall, nor leave them in your cold car while running other errands!When you get home, always remove the plant from its plastic sleeve. Make sure there is a watering hole in the bottom of the container (or drill a hole), and place it on a saucer that captures extra water. 


Poinsettia Care: 7 Tips to Follow

At home, follow these plant care tips:

  1. Poinsettias are particular about light. They require bright light during the day for the brightest color (at least 6 hours a day), but they don’t like direct light that could fade or burn the leaves. In the winter, place yours near a well-lit window. East-facing windows are best.
  2. Avoid spots near heating vents and doors, as well as hot appliances. 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 for people. Be sure to lower the thermostat at night so that plants cool off. 
  4. Do NOT overwater. 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 feels 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 aid 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 seven steps:

  1. When 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 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

About The Author

Doreen G. Howard

Doreen Howard, an award-winning author, is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day. She has gardened in every climate zone from California to Texas to Oklahoma to the Midwest. She’s especially fond of unusual houseplants and heirloom edibles. Read More from Doreen G. Howard

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