Few plants make it feel like Christmas time as much as poinsettias. These plants often find themselves on grocery store shelves and at garden center doors at this time of year, waiting to be taken home to add a little holiday charm to your space. They are also a popular gift at winter house warmings and holiday dinners.
With the proper care, you can keep your new houseplant healthy and beautiful well into the new year.
What You’ll Need
Though poinsettias do need a bit of detailed care, you probably already have most of the tools required.
- sunlight or plant lamp
- thermometer/thermostat (poinsettias need a consistent temperature)
- small pruning shears
- second pot, a few inches bigger than the one the plant is currently in
Step 1: Water It
This may seem obvious, but there’s a little more nuance than just giving your poinsettia a soak. Water the plant when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Don’t let the soil dry all the way through — make sure you maintain reasonably moist soil.
While poinsettias are thirsty plants, it’s important to make sure it is not sitting in standing water. One of the best ways to make sure the soil is wet throughout but there’s no standing water is to remove the plant from its decorative pot or wrap. Give the plant water until it begins to drain through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. The soil should be moist throughout, but not soggy.
Let the excess water run through the drainage holes. When there are no more streams or steady drips of water coming through those holes, you can put the plant back into its decorative pot and leave it until it’s time to water again.
Step 2: Find the Right Lighting
Poinsettias need at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily. Direct light can fade or burn the poinsettia’s colorful bracts (the large, often-red leaves that resemble flowers). A spot near a window or in a room with lots of natural light is ideal. Using blinds or sheer curtains can help filter the light enough to be healthy for your poinsettia.
Step 3: Set the Temperature
For the most part, if the temperature in your home is comfortable for humans, it’s comfortable for poinsettias. However, if you tend to keep your home a little warmer or colder than most, you might want to adjust your thermostat.
The ideal range for poinsettias is 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime. If you have a thermostat you can preset temperature changes based on the time of day. It might not be a bad idea to set the temperature to drop a few degrees overnight to give your plants a chance to cool down.
Another thing to consider when it comes to temperature is areas around windows or vents that can see more dramatic swings in temperatures. Drafts from doors or windows and hot air from vents can shift the conditions around your plant and can dry out the plant or cause it to shed its leaves. Contact between the plant and a cold window can also do damage to your poinsettias.
Step 4: Prune Poinsettias Back
This step specifically begins after the holidays when the warmer weather returns. If you’ve given your poinsettias a good environment to thrive in thus far, you can prep your plant so it makes it through the summer and will be ready to go for the next holiday season.
Once the temperatures outside pick back up — usually April or May — you can take your clean, sharp sheers and prune your plant back to be between 5 and 8 inches. Keep trimming it through the summer to keep it at a manageable size.
You can also put your poinsettia plant outside for the warmer months, still keeping it out of direct sunlight.
Step 5: Repot Your Poinsettia
Grab a pot a couple of inches bigger than the one your poinsettia came in. Make sure it either comes with good drainage or you create better drainage within it. If there are no holes in the bottom of your new pot for water to drain out of, add some rocks, marbles, or something of the sort to the bottom before adding the plant and soil.
Gently remove your plant from its current pot and inspect the roots. If everything looks healthy, carry on. If not, trim the roots that aren’t healthy or are dead before repotting.
Put your plant in its new home and fill the pot with soil. Then water it well!
Step 6: Fertilize
Poinsettias don’t need to be fed when they’re in bloom over the holidays. In the spring and summer, you can use a 20-20-20 blend once a month or a 10-10-10 every other week to feed your plant.
Step 7: Give It Shade
If you had your poinsettia outside for the summer, bring it back in when the temperatures start to dip in the fall, usually toward the end of September. At this point in the plant’s life cycle, it benefits from long periods of darkness.
You can give it “dark treatments” by letting it spend a long, restful 12 to 13 hours in a dark room. This can help the plant develop its bright bracts and it encourages blossom production. You may not have to move your plant from where it normally sits, so long as there are long hours of uninterrupted darkness where it usually sits.
Your poinsettia still needs lots of sun, so make sure outside of the 12-hour shift of darkness it’s still getting bright, indirect sunlight. If you can, rotate the plant occasionally to make sure it’s getting light from every angle.
After about a month and a half, you can stop the dark treatments and move it so it’s getting six hours of direct sunlight. Then, you can sit back and let it bloom in time for Christmas.
Hope Your Christmas is on Point!
Poinsettias are beautiful plants synonymous with Christmas. And with special attention throughout the year, a single plant can last you for years.
Proper watering, lighting, temperatures, and trims all factor into the health and longevity of your plant.
Do you have a poinsettia that’s been around for a while? How do you keep is happy and healthy? Drop a comment down below.