Preserving the Poinsettia Plant

One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia plant so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”

While this can be done, it requires work, as it is an exacting process. For those who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to re-bloom begins with the care you give it the first season.

When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home

Light – Place near a sunny window. South, east or west-facing windows are preferable to a north facing window.  Poinsettia plants are tropical and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.

Heat - To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant; however, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window can injure the leaves and can cause premature leaf drop. 

Water – Water the plant whenever the surface is dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water.

Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, particularly in winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly daily.

After Christmas Care

January – March Keep watering the poinsettia whenever the surface is dry.

April: Starting April 1st, gradually decrease water, allowing the plant to get dry between watering. Take care that the stem does not begin to shrivel. This is a sign the plant is too stressed and is dying. In a week or two, when the plant has acclimated to this drying process, move it to a cool spot like the basement or a heated garage. You want to keep it at about 60 degrees F.  Continue watering and allowing the plant to get dry between waterings.

May: In mid-May cut all stems, including the main stem, back to about 4” and repot in a slightly larger container, with new potting soil.  Water it well. Place the newly potted plant back into the brightest window you have and once again keep it at a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. Continue watering whenever the surface of the soil feels dry.  Watch for new growth. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks with a complete fertilizer.  Follow the fertilizer label recommendations.

June: Move the poinsettia outside, pot and all.  Keep it in a partially shaded location and maintain your water and fertilizing schedule.

July: In early July, pinch back each stem by about 1”.  This is to encourage a stout, well-branched plant. If left un-pinched, the poinsettia will grow tall and spindly.

August: By mid-August, the stems should have branched and leafed out. Once again, pinch or cut the new stems, leaving 3-4 leaves on each shoot.  Bring the plant back indoors and back into your brightest window.  Continue watering and fertilizing.

September: Continue regular watering and fertilizing. Make sure the temperature stays above 65 degrees F.

October: Poinsettias are short-day plants, meaning their bud set is affected by the length of daylight. To re-bloom, poinsettias need about 10 weeks with 12 hours or less of sunlight per day. You will have to artificially create these conditions and it is crucial to be diligent.

Beginning October 1st, keep your plant in complete darkness from 5 PM to 8 AM. Any exposure to light will delay blooming. Use an opaque box or material to block out light. Many people place their plants in a closet, but if light gets in through the cracks or if you open and use the closet, it will affect the bud set.  Move the plant back to the sunny window during the daytime and continue watering and fertilizing.

November: Around the last week of November, you can stop the darkness treatment and allow the plant to remain in the window.  You should see flower buds at this point.

December: Stop fertilizing about December 15th.  Keep watering and treat your plant the way you did when you first brought it home.  If all has gone well, it should be back in bloom and ready to begin the process all over again.

While the process is long and somewhat tedious, persistence will pay off with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

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One Response to “Preserving the Poinsettia Plant”

  1. I found that a product called Driwater will water my Poinsettias for the whole month and I dont have to worry about them when I have a million other things to do during the holidays. I bought mine directly from their website, driwater.com but later also found them on Amazon. You gotta check this stuff out, it should be in every store. 2 thurmbs up!!

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