How to Care for a Poinsettia

Caring for a poinsettia can be challenging. Getting it to re-flower even more so. Here are a few pointers.
Somewhat ironically, this Christmas favourite is a tropical plant. Your potted poinsettia was most likely to have been grown in a greenhouse where the temperatures ranged between 60-70 degrees F.
To keep your poinsettia healthy after the holidays you will need a warm, sunny window that best mimics the warm greenhouse where it was grown. Make sure your plant does not touch the cold window pane. It is also a good idea to avoid placing your poinsettia in a spot where there is the likelihood of a cold draft.
Check to soil in the pot frequently to make sure the plant is not dry. When you water your poinsettia, make sure the soil is evenly wet. Apply a water soluble fertilizer once or twice a month.
If you fail to water your plant enough the leaves will drop. If you water it too much, the leaves will turn yellow and drop.
The stems of poinsettias have a milk sap that can be irritating to skin. If you get any of the sap on your skin, wash it off right away.
In February, you will probably notice that the flowers have begun to fade and new side shoots have appeared. Cut back the old flowering stems to about 6 inches leaving one of two leaves on each stem. Sadly, this may make it look a bit homely for a while. New growth should appear mid-spring. Repot your poinsettia as necessary.
A poinsettia can move outside once all danger of frost is passed and temperatures are warm. Choose a location in the garden that has light shade. Keep an eye on the soil and make sure the plant does not dry out.
Mid-summer pinch the plant back a couple of inches to avoid leggy growth.
Well before fall frosts strike, bring your plant back indoors. Again, place it in a sunny window and fertilize it every other week. Days with shortened hours of sunlight are necessary for a poinsettia to re-bloom. At the end of September, move the plant to a warm spot that is in total darkness from 5pm to 8 am each day. When the colourful bracts, that we think of as flowers, appear sometime in November move the plant back to a sunny window.
Have you had success with keeping your poinsettia healthy and happy? Please share your tips with other Hometalkers.

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4 of 20 comments
  • Lori
    on Jan 4, 2016

    I had one that was doing fantastic!! Then I went to Florida (I live in TN. Kids in Fl.) and while I was away we had a good freeze, and well,you guessed it it died! 😥😥. I did not even think about tell my husband to bring it in. Was thinking its a winter plant it should be ok. Not!! Oh well I'll get a new one and try again. In Florida we could plant them in the ground and they did good. Just had to remember to cover them when a chill came . Thanks for setting me straight !

  • Lisa Martin
    Lisa Martin
    on Jan 5, 2016

    I have had my 3 poinsettias for 2 years, and they have been repotted once and they re-bloom for me every year. It's one of my favorite plants because I never seem to have a bug issue with them. Knock on wood!! I keep them in my sunroom all year long and I do as they state, place in a dark room from 5pm -8am. They are HUGE!! I would say a beginner could easily try their hand at these lovely plants.

    • Three Dogs in a Garden
      Three Dogs in a Garden
      on Jan 5, 2016

      @Lisa Martin Thank you for encouraging us all to keep our poinsettias going Lisa. Interesting that they seem to be pest resistant. Perhaps poinsettia's milky sap deters pests? I envy you your warm sunroom. It must be wonderful to have in winter.

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