Learn how to care for poinsettias and help yours stay healthy and happy all holiday season long!
The holiday season is filled with cold temperatures, dark days, and bleak colors. That’s why holiday decorations are so popular – they add some color and warmth to a dark and cold season.
Poinsettias are a plant that has big red, showy blooms from December to January. Perhaps second only to the Christmas tree on the list of holiday plants, people buy millions of poinsettias each year to brighten their homes.
Fun fact: The “flowers” on poinsettias aren’t flowers at all but modified leaves called bracts. The bracts are brightly colored in order to attract insects to the tiny yellow flowers in the center.
Although popular, many people don’t really know the best practices for poinsettia plant care. After reading this post, you’ll know everything you need (and then some) to know to care for poinsettias and keep yours looking amazing during the holiday season!
Red is the traditional color, and at one time, the only color available. However, you can now also enjoy plants in pink, yellow, salmon, white, purple, and multi-colors.
You may also occasionally come across fancy colors, like blue, which are the result of using dye. Please note that they won’t bloom that color again when they re-bloom.
Here are some popular varieties:
- “Holly Point” is the very traditional red poinsettia that you commonly find in supermarkets during the holiday season.
- “Plum Pudding” is the first purple variety.
- “Tri-Color” gets fancy, showing off bracts in red, pink, and white.
- “Lemon Drop” has yellow-colored bracts.
- “Jingle Bells” variety has red bracts with pink dots.
Are Poinsettias Poisonous?
These plants have a bad rap as being poisonous to children and pets but that is not true. They may, in fact, be mildly irritating if ingested, causing an upset stomach or a mouth rash but nothing more.
How to Safely Bring Your Poinsettia Home
Poinsettias are tropical plants (they’re native to Central America), so they are very intolerant to cold air and will drop bracts quickly. And yet, we use them to celebrate a holiday in one of the coldest months
Irony? I think so!
If you purchase your plant when it’s colder than about 50 degrees F outside, be sure to wrap it up in a plastic sleeve to protect it from the cold. Once you get home, cut away the plastic sleeve quickly to prevent bracts from wilting, curling, or turning black.
How to Care For Poinsettias
With a few simple tips, your poinsettia will look incredible for several weeks!
Poinsettias like to be in a cool-ish but not cold environment. Daytime temperatures of 65-70 degrees F are ideal as are nighttime temperatures of 60-65 degrees F.
Also, be aware of where you display your poinsettias because they don’t do well with hot or cold drafts. So sitting in a drafty window or by a drafty door will result in an unhappy plant. Nor do they thrive near excess heat from appliances like the refrigerator, fireplaces, or radiators.
Poinsettias need bright, indirect light for best growth.
Poinsettias prefer moderately moist soil. They don’t like their soil to dry out, nor do they grow well if their soil is soggy wet.
Check your plant often:
- If the soil is dry to the touch, give it a drink.
- If your plant is wrapped in foil, cut a slit in the bottom to allow excess water to drain and avoid root rot.
And if you really want to go the extra mile, mist your poinsettia a couple of days a week to help simulate its natural tropical home.
Poinsettias do well with almost any good quality, well-balanced, all-purpose fertilizer. Use a water-soluble variety and water thoroughly when fertilizing to avoid scorching the roots, especially if you use dry fertilizer.
There’s no need to fertilize your poinsettia when it’s blooming or if you are only planning to keep it as a holiday decoration.
How to Make a Poinsettia Re-bloom
While it’s easier to buy a new plant each year, with some care, it’s possible to get your poinsettia to bloom from year to year. However, let me just say- Learning how to take care of a poinsettia in bloom is very different than forcing your plant to re-bloom the following year.
Once the holiday season is over, if you want to try to make your poinsettia re-bloom, follow these steps:
Prune your plant to about 8 inches in height and keep it at around 55 degrees F. Start fertilizing with a well-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks.
You should start to see new growth. Re-pot it and let it grow in a cool but bright place over the summer, aiming for a temperature of around 58-64 degrees F.
Now comes the hard part – it’s time to start forcing your plant to re-bloom by following a strict lighting protocol.
These plants require about 10 weeks of 12-14 straight hours of darkness (shoot for 6 pm to 8 am) followed by 6-8 hours of bright light.
It’s important to be strict about this because any type of light (even household lamps) can delay or prevent re-blooming, so a closet typically works the best.
Continue doing this procedure until the last week of November or the first week of December. At that point, you may start seeing flower buds. Once you see those buds, you can leave your poinsettia in a well-light window (indirect light).
When your plant reaches full color, stop fertilizing it until you begin the cycle again in March-April.
Decorating with Poinsettias
These plants shine on their own, but there are plenty of other ways to use them too!
Here are a few quick ideas for decorating with poinsettias:
- Add some bright poinsettia leaves in the Christmas tree.
- Weave some poinsettia blooms into a garland on your staircase banister or mantle for a splash of festive color.
- You can use them in holiday wreaths for eye-catching color.
How to Care for Poinsettia: Final Thoughts
Now you know all the details you need to know about how to care for poinsettias. For a plant that’s native to a tropical climate, it actually does very well in colder climates to shine in festive holiday decor!