Caring for Your “Leftover” Poinsettias

— Written By Laura Oliver

The holidays have ended, and many of us are now undertaking the chore of taking down and packing up all our decorations, but the living decorations are not so easily packed away to bring back out next year. Poinsettias are the most popular flowering plant in the United States with more than 70 million sold each year. So, chances are you may have one sitting around your house long after the other holiday leftovers have come and gone. Instead of tossing your plant, you might take these steps to care for it and have blooms for many years to come!

Poinsettias are native to Mexico, but have been highly cultivated and selected for large and numerous blooms to become the beautiful decorative plants we are familiar with. Your plant may likely stay beautiful well into the new year with specific care. During this time of year poinsettias should be placed in a bright location that receives at least six hours of indirect sunlight each day. Direct sunlight may fade its beautiful color, so it thrives through the filter of a light shade or sheer curtain. Heat and drafts may also shorten the life of your plant, which prefers temperatures not to exceed 70 degrees and not below 50 degrees. They should be kept moderately moist, and should be watered when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. In addition, they should not be fertilized when they are in bloom.

Around March or April, you will begin to see the colorful bracts begin to fade. This signals the next phase of your poinsettia care. At this time, they should be pruned back to about eight inches in height. This will make your plant look quite bare, but will eventually allow new growth to emerge from the nodes on the stem. It should continue to stay near a sunny window during this time and be watered regularly. Once night temperatures remain above 50 degrees your plant can be put outdoors. Fertilization is important during this time, and should be done every two to three weeks during the spring, summer, and fall with a well-balanced fertilizer.

In early June, you should repot your poinsettia into a container 2-4 inches bigger using a soil high in organic matter. As the night temperatures begin to cool into the fifties and sixties, you should bring your plant back indoors to a sunny location.

Re-flowering your poinsettia will require more attention than in the previous months. Starting the first week of October and continuing for an eight week period the plant must be kept in total darkness for 14 hours each night. This can be accomplished by covering the plant with a large box or moving to a closet or similar area where light does not reach. The plant must also alternatively receive about six to eight hours of bright sunlight during this time. Depending on the response time of your poinsettia variety your plant will come into full bloom in November or December just in time for a new holiday season!

I joined the Extension team as the County Extension Director on January 1st of this year, and I am excited begin serving the citizens of Martin County. I will be handling both livestock and horticulture questions and programming, providing unbiased, research based information and educational programs. I hope to bring a fresh perspective to Extension programming this year, reaching out to new and underserved audiences and building new relationships while maintaining the traditional Extension programs you already use. If you are interested in Extension programming, or have any questions please feel free to contact me at the Martin County Extension Office, 789-4370 or by email at laura_oliver@ncsu.edu.

            The technical information in this article was sourced from the Clemson University Cooperative Extension archives most recently updated in 2015 by Joey Williamson, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent.