Poinsettias are a popular holiday plant due to their colourful bracts (leaves) that change colour due to shorter winter days. Although their colourful leaves are often confused for petals, its the tiny yellow blooms in the center of the bract (called cyathia) that make up the actual flowers. Poinsettias come in a range of colours, from bright red to pink, white, green, and even marbled/bicolour varieties. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, Poinsettias were first cultivated by the Aztecs, and later brought to the U.S. where they became a popular symbol of Christmas.
Poinsettias prefer bright and indirect light, so placing them in a southeast or southwest facing window is ideal.
Poinsettia plants prefer evenly moist soil and a fair amount of humidity. Water your poinsettia plant with room temperature water, try to use filtered water, if possible, as tap water can contain many added elements that are not ideal for your plant (i.e.,” fluoride, excess sodium, minerals, and other trace chemicals). Using your finger, you can check the top few inches of soil. When the top few inches of soil feel dry to the touch, you can give your poinsettia a thorough watering. Another sign that your poinsettia may be too dry is that the leaves will droop, turn brown, or become crispy. Be sure to check the bottom of the pot to ensure no excess water remains at the bottom after watering, as this can cause root rot.
Placing your poinsettia in a proper temperature is important. Avoid placing poinsettias where temperatures can fluctuate drastically, or can be exposed to cold drafts, heating vents, fireplaces, fans or air conditioners. Poinsettias like to be semi-cool, preferring temperatures between 65° and 70°F (18-21°C). Placing them somewhere that is much warmer will shorten its blooming period. Temperatures below 50°F (10°C) can quickly kill your plant.
Poinsettia plants don’t require any fertilizer while they’re blooming, so fertilizing is only required if you want to keep your Poinsettia after the holidays are done. After your poinsettia finishes blooming, you can fertilize your plant once every month or two weeks, using a standard houseplant fertilizer that has been diluted according to the instructions on the package.
Most people buy a new poinsettia every year; however, if given the right amount of TLC you can keep your poinsettia alive for next season! This can also be a complex process with mixed results. But following these tips will give you the best odds at keeping your poinsettia alive beyond the holiday season.
Getting your poinsettia to re bloom will take some extra TLC and greenhouse like temperatures to ensure success. Don’t worry if you are not able to get your poinsettia to re bloom the first time, this is a learning process that has different variables depending on where you live, your plants current state and many other factors. Below is a breakdown of what should be done:
Once your poinsettia has finished blooming, you can begin fertilizing it and continue to water your plant regularly and keep it in a bright, semi-cool location.
In spring, cut back your plant’s branches until they are only about 6” in (15 cm) from the rim of the pot. You may also want to repot your plant with fresh potting mix at this time.
Poinsettias can be kept either indoors during the summer, or outdoors in a location that receives partial sunlight. If bringing your plant outdoors, be sure to slowly acclimate it first so that the leaves don’t get sunburnt.
Once the new growth reaches 6-10" in (15-24 cm), you can pinch out the tips to encourage branching. Pinching the tips of the plant back with your hands or sterile shears will force your plant to grow new stems and will also prevent it from growing too tall or lanky.
By the mid to end of August you can bring your plant back indoors. Place it in a window with bright in-direct light and continue to water and fertilize your plant.
During the fall, it’s important to carefully manage the amount of light your Poinsettia receives. From about September through November, your plant should receive at least 12 hours of darkness per night. You may have to move your plant or cover it with a box at night to achieve this. These dark periods are essential to triggering your plant to bloom. During the day, make sure your plant still receives plenty of sunlight. Recommended temperatures are between 65° and 70°F (18-21°C) during the day, and between 55°-60°F (12-15°C) at night.
By the end of November and into December you should start to see your plant start to bloom. Once you notice blooming occurring you can stop the process of placing your plant in total darkness at night. You can keep the plant near a window with bright indirect sunlight and care for it as normal.
By mid-December you should already see blooms on your plant, and by this time you should also stop fertilizing your plant. By Christmas time your Poinsettia should be bloomed, and you can begin to care for it just like you did when you first got it!
If your poinsettia plant starts to lose its leaves, there are some factors that need to be inspected before action. Is your plant in a location close to a cold window or draft? Is it too warm in a room with very little humidity? Is the soil dried completely out? If your leaves are wilting and the soil is dry to the touch, be sure to water your plant right away. If your soil is moist and your leaves are drooping this can be due to overwatering as opposed to underwatering. If your soil is moist and leaves are dropping, you can reduce your watering frequency and wait until the soil dries out at the top few inches before giving it some water again.
As stated above, getting your poinsettia to rebloom can be a tedious and meticulous process that can receive mixed results. If you followed the above steps and were not able to get your poinsettia to re bloom, don’t be hard on yourself! Even experts, green thumbs sometimes fail at this too. If you are willing to experiment again next year, come back to this guide and follow the steps and adjust where went wrong last year!
The toxicity of poinsettias has been generally over-rated; however, poinsettias may cause stomach irritation or vomiting in pets if consumed, and therefore should be kept out of reach of your furry friends.