Poinsettias are flowers of legend and indispensable when celebrating the holidays. The colorful hues of these winter-blooming show stoppers breathe life into the dark days of winter. In fact, for many of us, the holidays simply wouldn't be the same without them. So, how do you keep them alive? To start, it's important to remember that poinsettias are native to Southern Mexico and Central America. Give them a proper mix of light, warmth, and water consistent with their natural home and you'll have blooms through New Year's and beyond.
Where to Put Your Poinsettia
Find a place in your home that has plenty of bright, natural light. An area near a south, west or eastern facing window should do the trick. Indirect light can be as good as direct light, simply avoid extremes such as high intensity, western exposure. Be careful plants don't touch cold windows and keep them clear of chilly or warm drafts found near doorways or heaters. Finding the right spot may take some trial and error. Be prepared to move your plants as needed.
Keeping Poinsettias Warm
Warm, consistent temperatures are key to maintaining blooms and preventing leaf drop. Ideal day and nighttime temperatures range from 65 to 70 degrees. You may find that your kitchen is warmer than your front room or upstairs, where heat naturally rises, is better than downstairs. If your plant seems happy then it probably is. If so, don't move it. If your poinsettia starts dropping leaves, it's a sign of stress and it's time to try a new location.
Maintain even soil moisture throughout the winter bloom time. Luckily, this is easier than it sounds. During winter months soil should be damp to the touch. If it's dry, then it's time to water. I've found the most effective way to water is over a sink. If your plants are in a plastic container that's wrapped in foil, lift the container out of the foil or punch holes in it near the bottom. Use your sink sprayer or faucet to run water through the planter, saturating the soil. Wait until excess water has fully drained before placing your planter back in its foil, decorative container or saucer. Plants may need to be watered every day depending on your indoor climate.
Look for the latest varieties. Newer varieties of poinsettias are hardier and have longer bloom times, some of them lasting up to 6 months! If plant tags don't have the information you're looking for, ask a specialist at your local nursery. This extra step of care will bring added value to your purchase and lasting color to your home.
More Poinsettia Care Tips
There's no need to fertilize poinsettias while they're in bloom. Wait to add fertilizers until late spring or early summer.
The bright blooms of poinsettias are actually bracts or specialized leaves. This is why preventing leaf drop is essential. The true flowers are at the center of these bracts. They're functional rather than showy.
Poinsettia Summer Care
To grow your poinsettias through summer and into next winter follow these 5 steps:
1. Let soil dry out between waterings once your poinsettias stop blooming.
2. Around May, prune to about 4 to 6 inches above the base of the soil and fertilize. A balanced liquid fertilizer works well.
3. When temperatures rise in summer, take your poinsettias outdoors. Find a spot that is bright but out of direct sun. Morning or late afternoon sun is best, again, avoid high-intensity light and heat. Rid your plants of pests, such as aphids or white flies by spraying with soapy water.
4. Bring your plants back indoors once temperatures begin to drop below 65 degrees.
5. To ensure your poinsettias bloom for the holidays, give them 12 hours of darkness a night starting in October. Cover them with a box or place them in a closet for an 8 week period. Don't let an ounce of light creep in during each 12 hour period. Once poinsettias bloom there's no need to fertilize.