Aside from a Christmas tree, nothing says “holidays” like poinsettias. A beloved holiday tradition both for decoration and gift giving, poinsettias also make attractive indoor plants all year long. You don’t have to throw them out with your tree when the holidays are over. If you care for them properly, there is no reason why you can’t keep them until next year. Keep reading to find out how to keep your poinsettia plant alive year-round.
Step 1: Start with a Healthy Poinsettia Plant
Choose a healthy plant, one that will keep going through the following year. Carefully examine the plant at purchase, looking for dark green foliage along the entire lengths of stems, with leaves that aren’t wilted. Be sure the bracts (the red leaves) are completely colored and bright in appearance. Also beware of any signs of insect infestation.
Insulate the plant with plastic before leaving the store if it’s cold outside. The longer the plant is exposed to cold conditions, the more likely it is to be unhealthy and not last as long.
Step 2: Move the Poinsettia to a Larger Container
If you bought or received a poinsettia during the holidays, remove the plant from its container and place it in a slightly larger pot so it will continue to grow after the holiday season is over. Use fresh, high-quality potting soil rich in organic amendments in the new pot.
Step 3: Keep Poinsettias in the Sun
Keep poinsettias near the sunniest window in your house so they get adequate light. Poinsettias like plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. They are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so don’t place them directly in the sun, next to a heater or near a drafty window. A daytime temperature between 65 and 80 degrees and nights around 60 degrees will provide perfect conditions for continued growth. Keeping the temperature constant 24 hours a day helps the plants thrive and decreases leaf shedding.
While not as toxic as they are often rumored to be, like many plants, poinsettias can be mildly irritating to some people’s skin and to the stomach if ingested. Keep pets and small children away from the plant to avoid unwanted contact.
Step 4: Water Poinsettias Correctly
Learn how much water poinsettias need. A long-lasting poinsettia is watered properly. Poinsettias prefer humid conditions (they are native to Mexico and Central America, after all). If your home is especially dry due to heating or climate, you may want to mist your poinsettias with water from a spray bottle daily. Keep the soil slightly dry as much as possible. Keep in mind that after a couple of days without enough water, poinsettias may begin to drop their leaves. Check soil moisture by sticking your finger into the soil every couple of days. Add water when the soil is dry down to your first knuckle. Be sure not to let the plant’s roots stand in water at the bottom of the pot. Instead, create a layer of pebbles to keep the plant out of water and increase the humidity around the it.
Step 5: Prune Poinsettias
Cut growth back to approximately a 6″ to 8″ height in spring, using hand pruners. Prune a couple more inches of growth in late summer to keep the plant compact and manageable as it grows through the fall.
If you want to start new poinsettias, make cuttings in May or June.
Step 6: Keep Poinsettias in the Dark
Bring out the full color next season, by keeping the plant away from all light between evenings and mornings for up to eight weeks. Start doing this around Labor Day. Even incidental glare from outside streetlights is out of the question. Try moving the plant into a closet—or a simple trick is to use an empty box covered in black plastic as a cover. Uncover or move it back into its sunny spot during the day. Once the red color returns to the plant, you can leave it in its usual full-time spot near a window.
Step 7: Fertilize Poinsettias
Add an appropriate fertilizer to the poinsettia’s soil every two to three weeks. For advice on which fertilizer is best to use, just ask an expert at your local True Value hardware store. A general, all-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer used at half-strength is a good choice.
Congratulations! Now you know what you need to keep your poinsettias alive from year to year.
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