How to Care for Your Poinsettia All Year Long

Eyes widen with the appearance of white or red foliage set among broad green leaves.  The name poinsettia quickly comes to mind with an image of what is to come in December. While we think the poinsettia has uniquely pointed flowers, they are actually modified leaves called bracts, which are designed to attract insects to the yellow flowers within the center.  Beautiful is one description, especially since the bracts go through a special process of complete darkness to change its colors in time for the Christmas holiday.  While the plant is beloved for one month, it does not require too much attention to continue its care throughout the winter, spring, and summer months.

While not all poinsettias survive through spring, the following instructions are necessary.

Choosing a Plant 

The plant comes in a variety of sizes and variations of colors. Try and select a plant with small, tightly clustered buds in the center, as well as crisp, undamaged bracts. If you desire a large plant, please know it will grow in height and width in your care.

While most plants come packaged in plastic to protect the fragile leaves, the poinsettia requires a shield from harsh environmental elements, especially wind.  If a paper bag is available, place it over the plant for protection.

Immediate Care Tips

During the holiday season, homeowners may have a specific location to place the symbols of Christmas.  The poinsettia will thrive in a room with ample bright, natural light. It will not survive past a month in drafty locations or heat from appliances such as a range, refrigerator, and television.

The decorative foil wrapping adds to the elegance yet, it can be a barrier.  The poinsettia only requires water when it is dry, and should never be overwatered or sit saturated.  One suggestion is to place a support between the plant and the saucer.  Caregivers should not be afraid to tip the plant forcing the excess water out.  Poinsettias will thrive if near a humidifier or misted.

In early winter, remove all the wilted leaves that have gathered in the foil or around the base and feed the plant with an all-purpose fertilizer.  As it continues to need adequate light and water, caregivers will notice prolonged blooms. It is acceptable to cut five-inches from branches by mid-February and add soil.

In spring, the great event has arrived to transplant your poinsettia to a larger pot.  Place a few handfuls of pebbles on the bottom before adding a layer of dirt for drainage purposes.  While it continues to need bright light, wait until warmer nighttime temperatures arrive before moving it outdoors.

In summer, your poinsettia has beautiful new growth and healthy green bracts. It appears tall.  You can pinch back the stems to encourage branching.  Continue watering only when the surface of the soil is dry.  Enjoy the moment your poinsettia has attracted the butterflies!

Branches will easily break. In September, branches can be used to create new plants.  Place near a window, and transplant to a small pot once the roots appear strong.

In fall, it is time to coax your poinsettia into a stage of bloom by late September to early October.  In recreating a Mexican winter and desert conditions, the location and its factors must be ideal.  Think of a dry, dark space that maintains a temperature of 50 degrees.   The plant can be placed inside a box or cupboard and allowed 14 hours of continual and uninterrupted darkness. For 40 days, the plant for the remaining hours in the cycle will need sunlight. During this time, do not water!

Once the flower buds arrive on your poinsettia, the moment is indeed an honor. It is time to stop the process.  Not all flowers make the change; however, families can receive pleasure from the beautiful green, red, or white poinsettia all year long and beyond!


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