How to Care for a Poinsettia: Essential Tips for Vibrant Blooms

It's that time of year! You've just brought home a beautiful new plant from a local garden center or store and now, you want to know How to Care for a Poinsettia so it lasts throughout the holiday season and, perhaps, until next Christmas.

Poinsettia plant in a vintage bowl with pinecones and fresh cranberries

Poinsettia flowers are one of the most popular holiday flowers and are a wonderful choice for holiday decorations and gift giving.

When it comes to poinsettia plant care, providing the right care is crucial. 

In this post I'll be covering questions for the best way to care for poinsettias (botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima), how often to water and more regarding this stunning tropical plant and if you'd like an idea for displaying yours, this post about How to Dress Up a Cheap Poinsettia Plant has some great inspiration.

Think of this as your guide to poinsettia care to keep these colorful plants living and thriving throughout the holidays and beyond.

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How to Care for a Christmas Poinsettia - tips for keeping your poinsettia alive and thriving throughout the holidays

A Holiday Tradition

Almost every year I buy a poinsettia for the Christmas season.

Their gorgeous colorful leaves are part of the reason they are such a popular holiday plant. With proper care they can last throughout the winter holidays and take their place with other house plants in your home long after the winter months are just a memory.

I usually try to wait until closer to Christmastime to buy mine so that it will bloom throughout the holidays but this year, I purchased the one above for only $3.49 at Aldi and that’s the only reason I bought one so early…..because it was only $3.49 and there was no way I could go wrong with this kind of deal.

How to Care for a Christmas Poinsettia - tips for keeping your poinsettia alive and thriving throughout the holidays

But, that being said, over the years I have learned some tips for keeping my poinsettias beautiful all the way through the New Year and in years past, I have kept them alive for several years in a row.

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Parts of the Poinsettia

How to Care for a Christmas Poinsettia - FLOWERS AND BRACTS

How to Choose a Poinsettia

First things first, you'll want to choose a healthy poinsettia that will look beautiful throughout the holidays.

Choose a plant with dark green leaves and foliage throughout, even to the base of the plant including the lower leaves. There should be no yellow, dry, or drooping leaves.

The colorful bracts are what we consider the flower petals, the showy part of the plant and in the case of the one above, the red. The poinsettia flowers should be vibrant and completely colored. 

Check the flowers to be sure they are green or red-tipped. If there is yellow pollen covering the flowers and/or center of the bracts, the plant will not be holding it’s bloom much longer.

The poinsettia should look full from all sides. I like to look straight down on mine to make sure it’s bursting with lush bracts.

As a rule of thumb, the poinsettia should be 2 ½ times taller than the diameter of the container. You don’t want a leggy poinsettia.

Once you choose your poinsettia, make sure that it is sleeved especially if outdoor temperatures are below 50 degrees F. 

When I purchased mine, it was already covered with a clear plastic sleeve which I did gently pull down to check my plant before pulling it back up and purchasing.

Sometimes, stores don't water these once they get them in since they usually sell pretty quickly. If I want to risk it, I buy the plant and water it as soon as I get home.

The reason for keeping the sleeve in place is that the bracts and leaves need protection from cold temperatures and cold drafts. 

Poinsettia Plant Needs

Once home, unwrap your poinsettia and place in a sunny, cooler spot, with indirect sunlight (no bright sunlight or direct sunlight).

Check the top of the soil daily and water when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Let the water drain into a saucer and discard. Once my poinsettia has been watered and the excess moisture drains, I move it somewhere where it will receive at least 6 hours of light daily. Keep it away from anything cold, like a cold window or window sill.

I like to place it in my kitchen sink and gently water it with warm water (don't use cold water) in a small watering can. I add just enough water so that surface of the soil is damp and I let the excess water drain. Good drainage is extremely important to keep the plant roots happy and aids in avoiding root rot.

Optimal Growth Conditions

How to Care for a Christmas Poinsettia - tips for keeping your poinsettia alive and thriving throughout the holidays

To ensure your poinsettia thrives, it's crucial to provide the right growing conditions. Let's examine the most important factors such as temperature, soil, sun, and humidity.

Temperature: Poinsettias prefer a temperature range between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your plant is not exposed to sudden drafts or temperature fluctuations. At night, they prefer cooler temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit to promote flowering.

Soil: These plants grow well in moist soil. When repotting, use a new potting soil to provide your plant with the necessary nutrients. There is no specific soil pH requirement, but a well-draining soil mix will keep your poinsettia healthy.

Sun and Light: Poinsettias require a good amount of sunlight during the growing season. Place your plant near a sunny window with bright, yet indirect light. Direct sunlight may scorch the leaves, hampering their growth.

To encourage vibrant color changes in the bracts, ensure they receive uninterrupted periods of complete darkness. For 7-8 weeks, maintain short days and long nights by shielding them from all light sources, even artificial ones like street and reading lights.

Humidity: Poinsettias appreciate a humid environment. You can achieve this by placing a plastic bag around the pot when propagating cuttings or using a humidifier in the room.

Remember, outdoor care is possible during the summer, but ensure you bring your poinsettia indoors before the temperature drops.

By paying attention to these factors, your poinsettia will grow beautifully and remain healthy throughout the seasons.

Transplanting Tips

To ensure your poinsettia thrives, follow these tips on transplanting and planting:

  1. Choose the right time to transplant: It's best to transplant poinsettia plants when their blooming period is over, usually around spring or summer.
  2. Select an appropriate pot: Poinsettias typically reach a height and spread of 1-3 feet, so choose a pot that's at least 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the root ball. Make sure the container has a drainage hole to avoid root rot.
  3. Preparing the new pot: Fill the container about halfway with a well-draining soil mix, preferably one that contains peat moss. A well-drained soil is crucial for preventing root rot and maintaining healthy growth.

Here's a simple transplanting process to follow:

  1. Gently remove the poinsettia from its current container, taking care not to damage the roots.
  2. Loosen the roots gently, and then place the plant into the new pot, ensuring it sits at the same depth as it was in the previous container.
  3. Secure the poinsettia by firming the soil around its roots and water it well.

Some additional tips to keep your poinsettia happy and healthy:

  • Position your poinsettia in a well-lit location, preferably a southern-facing window, as they benefit from plenty of direct daylight.
  • Regularly check and monitor the moisture levels in the soil. Poinsettias prefer evenly moist soil, but not soggy.

Following these tips will help you successfully transplant and grow your poinsettia plant into a beautiful addition to your living space.

How to Care for a Christmas Poinsettia - tips for keeping your poinsettia alive and thriving throughout the holidays

When to Water and How Much to Water

*See Watering Tips Above as Well

When it comes to caring for poinsettias, it is essential to understand their water and fertilizer requirements. Proper watering and fertilizing techniques will allow your poinsettia to thrive beautifully.

Firstly, always check the potting soil before watering. The soil should feel cool and moist to the touch. If it feels dry, it's time to water your poinsettia1. Remember to water thoroughly until water drains out of the bottom of the pot. This will ensure that the roots receive enough water without becoming too soggy. Make sure your poinsettia is placed in a pot with good drainage to prevent standing water, which can lead to root rot.

In addition to proper watering, it's crucial to fertilize your poinsettia with a  water-soluble fertilizer regularly. Fertilizing poinsettias helps them maintain their vibrant colors and encourages new growth. Utilize an all-purpose fertilizer diluted to half strength every month during spring and summer. If you live in a mild climate and can move your poinsettia outdoors during the summer, ensure the plant stays well-watered and fertilized.

How Long Will Your Poinsettia Last?

With some tender loving care, the blooms of your poinsettia should last 6 to 8 weeks.

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