It's that time of year! You've just brought home a poinsettia from a local garden center or store and now you want to know what to do with it so it lasts throughout the holiday season and, perhaps, beyond.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
While the sleeve is down, I like to poke my finger around at the base of the plant feeling for fallen leaves or rock hard soil. Both of these can be an indication that the plant may not be in the best of health.
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 drafts and where I live, in the north, just walking from the store to the car can be quick the cold and breezy adventure.
Poinsettia Plant Needs
Once home, unwrap your poinsettia and place in a sunny, cooler spot, with indirect sunlight (no bright sunlight or direct sunlight).
If the plant needs to be watered, do that now.
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.
Where to Place Your Poinsettia
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.
Place your poinsettia in an area that is draft free, i.e., not near doors, windows, heater vents, air registers, etc.
Poinsettias prefer daytime temperatures of between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and lower temperatures of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a nighttime temperature.
If possible, move your poinsettia to a cooler place at night. Maybe a room with the heater vent turned off or turned low or a basement. My basement is usually 10 degrees cooler at night than the upper level of my house so this is a good choice for me.
When to Water and How Much to Water
*See Watering Tips Above as Well
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.
Do NOT fertilize your poinsettia while it is blooming.
If you keep your plant after it's done blooming use a water-soluble fertilizer once or twice a month following the instructions on the product.
How Long Will Your Poinsettia Last?
With some tender loving care, the blooms of your poinsettia should last 6 to 8 weeks.