The poinsettia is the most popular holiday plant around Christmas time. Not so much after Christmas though. Caring for poinsettia indoors is a little tricky. It’s leaves begin falling off soon after the Holidays are over, making it the most popular and the most discarded plant of all time. So how can you save a poinsettia indoors and enjoy it for years to come?
With a little investment of time throughout the year, a poinsettia plant can continue to grow. They put on a vivid display of leaf color for many Holiday seasons. Use these tips and learn how to take care of a poinsettia indoors.
Poinsettias are commercially grown under controlled environmental and cultural conditions. There will be an abundance of the colorful plants at Christmas time. The plants are also created to be disposable but for many of us, discarding a living plant is not something we can do.
The precise greenhouse growing conditions are difficult to replicate. However, poinsettia is an adaptable plant and will adapt to a less than stellar greenhouse environment.
During The Holidays
Poinsettias are often used as indoor Holiday decor. They will need to be cared for to keep them looking their best.
If the potted poinsettia is wrapped in foil or other decorative paper that may impede drainage or air circulation, remove it immediately.
Place the plants in a bright location that receives 6-hours of sunlight each day. Do not put the plant in direct sunlight, the sunlight will burn it.
If the plant is placed in the window, don’t allow the leaves to touch the window pane. The winter cold or summer heat radiated through the glass will harm the plant.
Poinsettia thrive in temperatures from 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 21 Celsius) during the day and 60-65 degrees (15.5 – 18 Celsius) at night. The lower night temperatures protect the brilliant leaf color and help it to remain bright.
Protect plants from both cold and hot drafts from exterior doors, heating/cooling vents. or appliances. Never let the plant be exposed to temperatures less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 Celsius).
Keep the soil moist, but not wet. When the top of the soil becomes dry, water plant with room temperature water until the water begins to run out of the container bottom. Allow the water to drain through the pot and discard any excess water in the saucer.
Don’t over-water plant. If the poinsettia begins to wilt, too much or too little water could be the problem. When the soil is dry and the container feels lightweight, water immediately. If the container feels heavy and the soil is wet, stop watering. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
Soon after the Holiday season has ended, the bracts will fade and drop off, The red (or white or green, etc.) blooms we see on poinsettia plants are not flowers, they are bracts, which is simply a modified leaf. The actual flower on a poinsettia plant is the yellow bloom found at the center of the bracts.
All the pretty leaves will eventually fall off the plant and you’ll be left with nothing but a few bare stems sticking up from the soil. The poinsettia is still very much alive. It’s just undergoing a much-needed rest period after putting on the brilliant color display during the Holidays.
As the leaves begin to fall off reduce the amount of water given to the plant. Water as usual only once a week and allow the plant to remain in a bright location.
When all the leaves have fallen off the plant, cut back the stems to half their size. Re-pot the plant in a slightly larger container with fresh potting soil. Continue with the reduced watering and still leave the plant in a bright location.
The poinsettia is not much to look at right now. You may be tempted to put it in an out-of-the-way location. However, allow it to remain in the bright location for just a little while longer.
Summer Time Care
When new growth begins to appear on the pruned stems, it’s safe to resume a more normal watering schedule. The poinsettia will also need to be fed when the new growth appears. Feed it the same thing, and in the same amount, you feed other indoor plants.
The plant will continue to put on new growth and start to look leggy by early summer. In mid-summer, pinch the tops out of the new growth so the plant will become bushier. Pinch off 1-2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) of the new growth so the plant will develop lateral stems.
A potted poinsettia can be placed outdoors during the summer months. Keep it out of direct sunlight in a location that will protect it from high winds. Continue a regular watering and feeding schedule until early fall/autumn.
The Dark Treatment
When the temperature begins to get cooler in the early fall/autumn it’s time to bring the poinsettia back indoors for a little dark treatment. For at least 40 days the plant will need a strict light/dark regimen to produce color for the Holiday season.
At dusk, place the plant in a dark room or closet, or cover with a box or paper bag for 13-16 hours. Do not open the door or remove covering from the plant. Even momentary exposure to light will hinder the plant from forming colorful bracts.
At dawn, move or uncover the plant to allow eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight.
After 40 days of the dark treatment, your poinsettia should be leafed out and in full color ready for the Holidays.
An otherwise healthy poinsettia will drop its’ leaves if exposed to sudden changes in temperature, cold or hot blasts of air, or if it’s in a very cool or dry room.
|Light||full sun, part sun|
|Soil drainage||well drained|
|Height x Width||13 x 6.6 feet (4 x 2 m)|
|Flowering seasons||winter, early spring|
|Plant hardiness zones||9 – 11|