Often used for decoration during the holidays, poinsettias are widely appreciated and adored due to their bright and contrasting seasonal coloring.
Although there are many different types of poinsettias, including white, burgundy, pink, speckled and marbled, the traditional bright red poinsettias are still one of the most popular, according to the University of Illinois Poinsettia Pages!
Ironically, these warm-climate plants are most popular during the chilly holiday month!
These tropical plants are members of the Spurge family and commonly get people in the Christmas spirit in the weeks leading up to the holiday with their bright red bracts (the colorful leaves that make up the flower) and dark green leaves.
Before purchasing a poinsettia, there are a few things you should look for to ensure it will live a long and healthy life throughout, and even beyond, the holiday season!
Tips for Purchasing a Poinsettia:
Check the leaves for insects, the soil’s dampness, the crowding of the plant, its coloration and for wilting leaves.
Choose a poinsettia with bracts that are evenly and brightly colored with no green edging and with leaves that are dark green all the way to the soil level.
Check the soil’s moisture level. The soil should feel damp but not wet, and there should be no pollen at the base of the bracts.
Once you’ve picked the perfect poinsettia and are ready to take it home, check the temperature outside to make sure it isn’t below 50 degrees! If so, cover the plant as you transport it because even small intervals in cold weather can damage the plant.
Placing Your Poinsettia With Care:
Once you’ve taken your poinsettia home, you’ll need to find the perfect place for it!
Keep it in indirect sunlight where it can receive about six hours of light a day. This works best in south-facing areas inside the home, but don’t let it be too close to the window panes where cool drafts can reach the plant.
Make sure it’s not placed near an air vent where hot air may blow onto the plant and damage it.
Keep the poinsettia in 60-70 temperatures during the day.
At night, move it to another room where the temperature sits at about 55 degrees.
Only water your poinsettia enough to keep the soil damp.
Each time you water, remove excess water from the saucer below the pot. Poinsettias that sit in water and stay wet are likely to wilt and lose leaves.
If you are able to follow these caretaking steps during your busy holiday season, your poinsettia will live anywhere from 6-8 weeks!
Placing a Poinsettia Outside:
If you live in a tropical area with temperatures within the range of 55-70 degrees, you may be able to keep your poinsettias outside.
If you choose to place your poinsettia outside during the winter, more care and consideration will be needed. If you live in a warm climate with the proper sunlight, daytime and nighttime temperatures, then you should be able to care for your outdoor poinsettia with ease!
Keep in mind that poinsettias are not frost tolerant though, so if night-time temperatures are expected drop below 55 degrees, you should cover them or bring them inside for the night.
But, what happens after the holiday season? You’ve worked hard caring for your poinsettia and it would be a waste to just toss the beautiful plant after Christmas.
The good news is that you don’t have to! You can care for your poinsettia all year round because they are relatively easy plants to maintain and nurture.
After the last frost in your area, you can permanently relocate your poinsettia to the outdoors. At this point, the poinsettia can survive outside and be replanted or placed on the porch in its pot!
Before doing so, prune the plant back about 5-7 inches, including the ducts if they haven’t fallen yet, and restrict the amount of watering you give the plant.
Allow time for the soil to completely dry out before watering the plant again.
As you see new growth occur, pinch back the stems, which will encourage branching.
Use a balanced organic fertilizer to feed the poinsettia every two weeks.
If for some reason the temperatures start to drop below 50 degrees, make sure to bring the poinsettia inside.
As the leaves on the trees begin to change color and the temperatures start to cool, your poinsettia’s needs will change too.
Maintain the same watering and feeding routine, but when it gets closer to blooming time (usually October), you’ll need to pay careful attention to the plant.
Eight to ten weeks prior to bloom time, the poinsettia should be placed in COMPLETE darkness for 12-15 hours a day, receiving about 6 hours of sunlight each day. Use a black trash bag, dark closet or box to ensure the poinsettia gets no light during these hours.
Use all these tips to enjoy your poinsettia and keep it beautiful all year long.