Poinsettia After Christmas Care Guide
Every year many of us wonder what to do with a poinsettia after Christmas. Poinsettias became popular holiday plants around the 1960s, when a California nursery that specialized in the plants, marketed them as holiday plants, sending them to television stations as a marketing ploy during the holidays. Poinsettias have long been associated with the winter holidays in Mexico, because that is when their bright flowery bracts show up. Most people wonder what to do with a poinsettia after Christmas.
Poinsettias brighten our homes at holiday time but they do fade shortly afterward. Instead of allowing them to die or languish, you can care for a poinsettia throughout the year and in autumn, begin to prepare it to bloom again. With some focused attention, a poinsettia can bloom brightly again year after year. Here are some tips for caring for them after the holidays, and nurturing them over the year for a colorful show next winter.
How to Care for a Poinsettia After the Holidays
Poinsettias are readily available around the winter holidays. Their classic red bracts resembling flowers are a familiar holiday sight. But as the weather warms, the flowers begin to fall off and the plant is left with its green leaves. With good care, it can live on through the year, but the poinsettia requires us to follow a few simple steps to trick the plant into reblooming the following holiday season. Read on to learn all about year-round care for your beautiful poinsettia.
Poinsettias initially produce their red bracts in response to shorter day lengths. In their native habitat as fall approaches they begin to experience lower light levels and, as the nights get longer, the plant’s photosensitivity responds by forming red flowery bracts.
While in bloom, poinsettias need bright light to look their best. They should get at least 6 hours every day. After the holidays they require the same level of light until around mid-September. After that, as autumn approaches, they need at least 12 hours of darkness. In spring they can be re-potted and moved outdoors for the summer.
Poinsettia plants prefer moist soil. Remove the foil from around the plant so it never sits in standing water. When the soil is dry to the touch 2 inches (5.08 cm) below the surface, the plant needs water. Room temperature water is best for this plant. The frequency of watering will depend on where the plant is located. Container plants living outdoors for the summer need more water than those kept indoors. Continue your normal watering routine until spring (or the first of April), then allow it to dry gradually.
Temperature & Humidity
In their native habitat in Mexico, poinsettias live in mixed forests. As such, they require warm temperatures and have little resistance to the cold. Keep poinsettia plants away from extreme temperature changes in the home; don’t place them near drafty doors and windows or near forced heat air. Indoors, the plants prefer a temperature of 60-70 degrees F (15.56-18.33 C) and slightly cooler at night, but keep it above 60 F. (15 C) to avoid leaf drop.
Poinsettia plants do not need extra nutrients during their blooming period, but they respond well to fertilizing in spring through summer. Apply liquid fertilizer diluted by half every 2 weeks. Common liquid houseplant fertilizer works fine.
How to Care for a Poinsettia Year Round
Here are tips for the best ways to care for your poinsettia through the seasons.
Avoid placing the plant where sudden temperature changes occur. This could cause the flowering bracts and leaves to fall off. Keep the plant near bright light and in moderately warm temperatures. Water and fertilize as needed and pinch or prune back any dead or leggy growth.
Spring is a good time to repot the plant. Poinsettias need well-draining slightly acidic soil. A potting mix with a high percentage of peat or perlite will provide a good medium for further growth. Pinch off the top growth to promote side branches and develop a nicely shaped plant.
Around the middle of April or May, or if your plant becomes leggy, cut the stems back to about 4 inches (10 cm) above the soil and repot in a larger container with fresh, sterile potting mix or a soilless mix.
In early summer, when nighttime temperatures are remaining above 50 F. (10 C) you can move the plant outdoors (in its pot) in a slightly shady location. Gradually, leave it outside for longer and longer periods of time until finally giving it 6 hours a day of full sun. Continue watering and fertilizing the plant as usual. Trim it again as needed in summer (typically around the first to middle part of July), pinching about an inch (2.5 cm) of terminal growth from each stem. Give it another pruning towards the first part of September. Trim off two to three inches (5-7.6 cm) to promote side branching, allowing 3 or 4 leaves to remain on each shoot. Keep watering and fertilizing as usual. Move the plant outdoors where it will get some sheltered light. Harden it off. By mid-summer, trim the plant again and move it to full sun. Be sure the plant gets 6 hours of sunlight daily. In the summer, plants can withstand some heat but should be placed where there is a bit of protection from direct noonday sun.
Autumn is the season to trick your poinsettia plant. Move it to a location where it gets 12-13 hours of darkness (some gardeners say 16 hours of darkness). A basement, attic, or even closet will provide the required darkness. Just before the end of November, the darkness treatment can stop. Return the plant to a bright window, and reduce watering and feeding by half. When the plant is in light, turn the container frequently to develop even growth. With a little luck the plant will begin to produce its bright red bracts just in time for the holidays.
As the days again begin to get cooler and shorter, follow the directions above for fall care of your poinsettia. By Christmas, your reblooming poinsettia will again be the centerpiece of holiday decor and ready to begin the cycle anew.
The elements of this plant’s natural habitat can be difficult to mimic at home, and there’s no guarantee that your poinsettia will bloom again even with the best care. But it’s certainly worth a try.
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.
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