The holiday season is almost here and we know you’re excited to pull off your home decorations. Your Christmas ornaments that were kept for almost a year will finally be dusted off. And of course, the all-time favorite poinsettia plant will again serve as a seasoned attraction.
Most people buy poinsettias only for the holidays and then they’ll throw off the plant afterward. If you’re planning to do the same, hold on because there’s good news. There are ways in which you can keep your poinsettia even after the holiday is over and save it for the celebration next year.
Knowing Your Poinsettia
Before we move forward to the rules and procedures of caring for your potted poinsettia, it would be better to start knowing your plant first. Here are some interesting facts to discover about this Christmas ornamental plant.
Origin and History
Poinsettias are a native of Mexico, particularly the Southern part. It was first introduced in the United States in 1825. The name poinsettia was taken after the first United States ambassador to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett who happened to introduce the species to the US.
The tradition of using poinsettias as a decoration for Christmas began during the 17th century. When Franciscan priests settled in Mexico, they used the red poinsettia to decorate the celebration of the nativity of Christ. The locals adopted the practice and later on, it spread out in Mexico and now to the different parts of the world.
The poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) belongs to the Euphorbia family. It is a perennial plant that grows as shrubs or even as small trees. The red color that you see is most often mistaken as the flowers, but technically, these are just colored bracts.
Bracts are modified leaves that have an attractive appearance. Its purpose is to lure pollinators so that the real flowers, which are the tiny yellow objects you see on the top middle of the bracts, will get pollinated. These colored leaves return to being green when the long nights are over.
Poinsettia is considered a short-day plant. This means that it needs exposure to shorter daylight, less than 12 hours, in order for it to bloom.
The long nights and short days during winter make it favorable for poinsettias to flower in time for the yuletide in December. But you can always manipulate the environmental conditions to make it favorable for blooming.
Care and Maintenance of Poinsettias
Taking care of a poinsettia may require a little deviation from the normal routine you take for your other houseplants. Particularly, it will require you to put extra effort when the blooming season is about to begin. Following are some important things to remember when tending for a poinsettia:
- Scientific Name Euphorbia pulcherrima
- AKA Poinsettia plant, Flower of the Holy Night, Crown of the Andes
- Similar to Mussaenda
- Native to Southern Mexico
- Shape Star-shaped leaves
- Maximum Size 10 to 15 feet
- Watering Requirements Low to Medium
- Light Requirements Bright, indirect light
- Preferred Humidity High
- Preferred Temperature 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21°C)
- Soil Loose, well-draining peat-based potting mix
- Fertilizer Apply an all-purpose, liquid fertilizer every week
- Propagation Method Stem cuttings
- Toxicity Non-toxic to pets and humans
- Vulnerable to Root rot
Keep your poinsettia indoors for the winter period. This plant is not frost-tolerant and it will surely get damaged when the snow starts falling. During summer, you can move the plant outside.
The requirement for poinsettias is bright but indirect light. Make sure to place it in a sunny window so that it receives enough sunlight for the day for at least six hours. They need sunlight to make their own food through the metabolic process called photosynthesis.
For a photoperiodic plant like the poinsettias, a certain period of exposure to complete darkness is necessary to signal the leaves to change their color from green to red (or pink, white, etc. depending on the variety) and to induce flower buds to develop.
To do this, you’ll have to expose the plant to not more than 12 hours of daylight and then under complete darkness for the rest of the day. The exposure will have to run for 10 weeks or so to induce the flowering.
Watering your poinsettias isn’t that demanding because it requires only less amount of water. You have to make sure that the soil’s surface is dry to the touch up to 2 to 3 inches below before you water it again. This plant prefers a condition where the potting mix is dry rather than moist especially during the resting period.
Avoid overhead watering to prevent wetting the foliage. Ensure that holes are properly set in order for excess water to drain completely out of the container.
Soil and Fertilizer
Poinsettias love the loose, good-draining peat-based potting mix. To keep the plant healthy, apply an all-purpose fertilizer that’s water-soluble every week. Dilute the concentration to half or quarter and apply as recommended. Make sure to carefully follow the instructions indicated in the label of the fertilizer you are using.
Watch out when the plant sheds off the leaves. Once it happens, you must reduce watering and fertilizing to allow the plant to enter the resting period. When the poinsettia starts showing new growth, resume watering and fertilizing to its normal rate to support the development of young shoots.
Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature for poinsettia to thrive is within the range of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21°C). During night time, it can tolerate a lower temperature range of 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 18°C). Drafty locations must be avoided to prevent the damage caused by drastic temperatures such as too cold or too hot.
When the condition inside your home gets really dry, daily misting is necessary. This will hasten the production of new growth.
Pests and Diseases
Part of the care and maintenance of a poinsettia plant is watching out for the presence of pests and diseases. The common pests are whiteflies, fungus gnats, thrips, shore flies, and spider mites. To prevent them from infesting your plants, make it a habit to check and remove them once noticed.
The diseases that can possibly infect the poinsettia plant will be Botrytis gray mold, powdery mildew, Alternaria blight, Xanthomonas blight, Erwinia blight, Phytophthora blight, and root diseases such as Pythium, Phytophthora, and Rhizoctonia root rot.
The spread of diseases can be prevented by using sterilized soil and maintaining the ideal growing conditions such as the right temperatures, humidity, water, and light.
Reblooming of the poinsettia plants is possible. That’s why it’s crucial that you save your last year’s plant, take care of it and prepare it for the next season. Bring the pot inside the house when September begins.
You can manipulate your poinsettia to bloom by exposing it to shorter days for 10 weeks. You have to decide which day you want to see it flower and from there, count the weeks backward. If you want to see flowers by December 20, you have to start exposing the poinsettia to shorter days starting November 11.
What you can do is place the poinsettia pot beside a sunny window from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. After that, you have to bring it to an enclosed area where no light penetrates throughout the night. The next morning, you have to bring it back to a well-lit place.
Continue this routine for the coming weeks until you see the bracts changing colors from green to red poinsettia.
Pruning the poinsettia is necessary to keep it in shape and to encourage lateral growth. This will induce the plant to gain thick foliage. When the shoots have grown several inches long, cut an inch long at the tips of the stems leaving five to seven leaves behind each stem.
Normally, the first pinching is done during the month of July. Your poinsettia may require second pinching in the middle of August depending on its growth rate.
Like other potted ornamentals, poinsettia plants will need repotting as well. It’s an important part of the care and maintenance procedure to prolong the life of the plant. Choose a new container that is 2 to 4 inches larger than the previous one.
Water the soil and let it sit for an hour to loosen. Carefully take it out of the container and remove the soil from the root ball. You may trim off some of the roots especially the dead and aged portions.
Use a fresh potting mix, once that’s been sterilized to prevent the spread of diseases caused by pathogens. Transfer the poinsettia to another container and fill it in with the remaining potting mix. Water the plant thoroughly and allow it to drain well enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you keep a poinsettia alive?
It’s possible to keep your poinsettia alive even after the Christmas season and let it live as a foliage houseplant indoors. If you’re careful to provide the right growing conditions such as temperatures, water, light, fertilizers, and humidity, there’s a high chance that your poinsettias will live year after year.
In order to keep it longer, continue to propagate and repot the plant when it’s deemed necessary.
Why are leaves falling off my poinsettia?
It’s normal for poinsettia leaves to fall off after the holidays. This is because it enters a period of rest and it will regrow its leaves back when spring comes. When this happens, don’t throw the plant away!
What you can do is place it in a location that’s bright and cool (50-55 degrees Fahrenheit). Let the soil dry and water only occasionally just to prevent the stems from drying out. That way, the plant will continue to live even after the shedding off.
Other reasons for falling off of leaves include exposure to hot and cold drafts or improper watering.
What do I do with my poinsettia after Christmas?
Unless the plant totally died, don’t throw your poinsettia away after Christmas. Even when the bracts are no longer red in color, you can always treat it as another houseplant to display inside your home.
Find a bright location where bright but indirect sunlight comes is available. The night temperature must be around (60-65 degrees). Keep watering and fertilizing the poinsettia every week to keep it healthy and flourishing.
How can I get my poinsettia to turn red again?
Poinsettia plants turn red again when it receives shorter days for a certain period of time. As a photoperiodic plant, it responds to the changes in the length of the day by initiating bud formation. You can manipulate the color changes by exposing your plant to longer darker periods for 10 weeks.
You can put the potted poinsettias in a properly lit area like beside a window. After it receives at most 12 hours of daylight, move it to a closed area where no hint of light is available. Move it back to the original spot when the morning comes and do it every day until the bloom starts to appear.
Are poinsettias good house plants?
Poinsettias are good houseplants even when the foliage has turned back to its green color. It is a good foliage ornamental to add to your collection. You can take care of it by following the indoor care tips recommended for poinsettias.
For best results, try to provide the ideal environmental conditions as much as possible. If you’re successful in maintaining the poinsettia healthy throughout the months, you’d be lucky to have the best-looking poinsettias to decorate when the holidays come.