Given the relatively low cost of the Poinsettia, many prefer to toss them out with the Christmas tree or add them to the compost pile. If you are one of those read no further. But if you really enjoy a gardening challenge and tend to think of your plants almost as pets, then consider pampering your Poinsettias through the seasons. When you see last year’s plants produce showy new blooms, you will get a self-satisfaction that is priceless. Remember also that indoor houseplants help clean up the air by turning carbon dioxide into the fresh air, and that can be beneficial to health.
How to Care for Poinsettias
Poinsettia care should begin immediately. Before purchasing shop for healthy looking plants that have been kept away from drafts or excessive heat. Touch the soil and see that it is neither too wet or overly dry. Take care not to give your new plants a cold ride home if you are in an area with a very cold climate.
Poinsettias are usually sold with the containers wrapped in colorful foil. Remove the wrapper as soon as you get home to allow for proper drainage. Place your new plants in a sunny location. Avoid high heat and cold drafts. Because they are tropical plants they crave humidity. Place on a tray of wet pebbles and spritz with a water sprayer daily. Keep the soil moderately moist.
Although the Poinsettia leaf is not deadly, place it where you can monitor small children and pets around it. Ingesting enough of it can induce gastrointestinal distress.
After Christmas Care for Poinsettias
Continue to keep your Poinsettias in a place with plenty of light and water as directed above. The plants will enter a dormancy period and will begin to lose leaves. This is normal. But do watch for shriveled brown stems as this indicates that those stems are dead and your lovely Christmas flower is dying a slow death.
At this point move your Poinsettias to a good “resting place” that is a little cooler and with just a little less sunlight. Water only when dry and do not fertilize. Continue to keep them away from drafts and high heat.
Continue to let your plants lose leaves naturally and then go ahead and cut back all branches to a few inches above the soil line about 2 to 4 inches in height. Leave two or three leaves on the old stems as new growth comes from buds on the leaf. The actual flower of the Poinsettia is the yellow middle. The colored leaf is called a bract.
Winter Care for Poinsettia Indoors
Around Valentine’s Day start fertilizing every two weeks and provide a little more sun light. Keep in mind that you are trying to recreate a desert winter. Keep the temperature around 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
When to Move Poinsettia Outside
Spring is in the air! You have gotten your Christmas Poinsettias safely through the long cold winter without over or under watering and have avoided cold drafts and hot heaters. Congratulations! By now you should have begun to form a relationship with the plants.
When the nighttime temperature stays consistently around 60 degrees Fahrenheit it is time for your floral friends to go outside and enjoy the Spring. It is probably also time for a bigger pot. Be sure to choose a pot that will continue to allow proper drainage such as a Terracotta with drainage holes in the bottom. Use a sterile lightweight soil that is slightly acidic. Garden soil will cause root rot and you will lose your friends.Be sure to place them where they will receive plenty of indirect sunlight. By now you have really become protective of these plants that you have nurtured. Should a Blackberry Winter occur and the temperature dips temporarily you will want to cover them with a cloth such as an old bed sheet.
Spring and Summer Care for Poinsettia
Keep your Poinsettias cut back to around 8 inches in height as the Spring months continue. Keep fertilizing every 2 weeks with a good water soluble all purpose fertilizer.You should begin to see plenty of new growth by May.
As Spring turns to Summer you will enjoy watching your friends flourish and grow. Now is the time for selective pruning. Decide if you prefer a bushier plant with more and smaller bracts or a slightly “leggier” plant with less but larger ones. Pinch the tips of the new growth often for the bushier look and less for bigger blossoms. In either case, stop pruning by Labor Day.
Summer is also the time to help your friends propagate for growing their off-spring. Take cuttings that have 3-4 “eyes” and dip in a rooting hormone. For best results use a terrarium type container to maintain high humidity and light. The cuttings should take root in 3-4 weeks. As your little “grandchildren” growing give them the same care as the adult Poinsettia.
Fall Care for Poinsettia
Bring your poinsettia back indoors on October 1st. It’s time to trick your friend into thinking that the days are short and the nights are long and cool. You will do this by placing them in total darkness for 14 hours out of the day. Do this by placing them in a very dark and cool place for those 14 hours, and do it for 40 days. The most common mistake made is putting them where even just a little light can seep in or by turning on a light for just a few seconds. Even a little light will totally confuse them. Consider covering them with a black box inside the closet or basement as well.
The dark time temperature for this period is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. For the 10 hours of daylight place them in a sunny window at around 70 degrees. Remember to be consistent and not to skip a single day. If you take any over night trips get a friend or neighbor to “plant sit” for you.
Reblooming Your Poinsettia
You have cared for your Poinsettias almost a whole year now. You have kept the soil evenly moist, provided plenty of light and humidity. You have lovingly nurtured them outdoors and indoors. You’ve even tricked them into thinking they were in short days with long nights. Now beginning around Thanksgiving, and just in time for the Holiday Season, if you have done your job correctly you should be rewarded with showy colorful blooms once again.
This lovely cycle can continue as long as you like. And don’t forget about the “babies” you helped propagate.What great gifts they will make when your friends and neighbors realize that you grew them yourself!
History of Poinsettia
The Poinsettia is from the deserts of Mexico. It was introduced to the States by US Ambassador Joel Robert Poinsett after he discovered them growing wild in parts of Mexico in 1825. Since then many different varieties have been developed. Currently over 65 million have been sold. The once popular notion that they are highly poisonous has been discounted but the sap can cause allergic reactions in some. Ingesting the leaves can cause intestinal distress.