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Nothing says Christmas quite like a bright red poinsettia, but a Christmas shopper only has to visit a well-stocked garden center these days to find a wide spectrum of colors available in Poinsettias for every possible home decorating scheme. Far beyond the original red poinsettia are colors ranging from yellow to blue, and purple to pink. Other potted plants, such as Christmas Cactus, Kalanchoe and African Violets, are also excellent gift choices during the holiday season.


Poinsettia flowerDid you know?

The actual flower of a Poinsettia is nestled at the base of the colorful bracts.

As a basic botany lesson, Poinsettia's vivid colors are produced not by its flowers, but by colorful leaves known as 'bracts.' Poinsettia flowers are actually the small yellow blossoms nestled at the base of the colorful bracts.


by Sandy Feather
Penn State Extension

Sandy's Garden

Q: I received a lovely poinsettia from my son and would like to keep it for next Christmas. How can I care for it and get it to bloom at the right time?

A: During the holiday season, keep your poinsettia in a sunny location, but avoid hot afternoon sun. Do not allow its leaves to touch cold window glass. Your poinsettia will require more frequent watering in the sun. What people think of as poinsettia flowers are really leaves called bracts; the true flowers are the small, yellowish structures in the center of the bracts.

Do not place your poinsettia where it will be subjected to cold drafts; they are tropical plants and can be injured by temperatures below 50 degrees. Keep the soil evenly moist, never sopping wet. Remove decorative foil from the pot when watering; you can replace it once water stops running through the drainage holes, or punch holes in the foil to allow water to drain out. Otherwise, it will hold water around the roots and cause them to rot.

Fertilizing a Poinsettia

Fertilize every two to three weeks with a complete water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength while bracts are showing color. Products such as Miracle-Gro (15-30-15) or Peters 20-20-20 are fine.

The bracts generally fade in late March or April. Care for it as you would any other houseplant. Keep it in a sunny location and water as needed to keep the soil from drying out. Quit fertilizing once the bracts fade. Cut the stems back to 6 to 8 inches. It's a good idea to wear rubber gloves and long sleeves when cutting back a poinsettia because the milky sap can irritate your skin if you are sensitive to it.

Watering Poinsettias

Reduce watering so that the top inch or two of soil dries between waterings, but never allow the plant to wilt completely. This gives your poinsettia a slight rest period before it grows again.

In early June, when your poinsettia puts on strong new growth, repot it into one a size larger than its current container. If you jump up too many container sizes, there will be too large a volume of soil around the poinsettia's root system, possibly causing root rot.

Colorful Christmas Plant Display

Once it is transplanted, place it back in a sunny window. Your poinsettia can also spend the summer outside in a protected location. An area that receives full morning sun and shade from the hot afternoon sun is ideal.

Fertilize every other week with a complete water-soluble fertilizer. To encourage bushy plants, pinch the new growth back by an inch or two in July. You can pinch it back again in late August if it is growing very vigorously. If your poinsettia is outside, be sure to move it back indoors before night temperatures fall below 60 degrees.

Insects like Whiteflies

Inspect your plant regularly for signs of insects. Whiteflies are the most common pest of poinsettias. If a cloud of white insects hovers when the foliage is disturbed, they are likely whiteflies. Repeated applications of insecticidal soap should take care of the problem. Insects should be less of a problem on indoor plants.

Getting a Poinsettia to Re-Bloom

Getting your poinsettia to bloom for next Christmas requires a little planning. Poinsettias bloom in response to long nights. You should start providing prolonged nights the last week of September or the first week of October in order to have it in bloom for Christmas.

Move your poinsettia to a closet or cover it with a box or basket every night; leave it in place for 14 hours. This must be done nightly for eight to 10 weeks. The dark cycle cannot be interrupted, not even briefly, or it will delay flowering.

Move your poinsettia to a sunny location during the day. Once the small bracts begin to appear, you can leave it in its normal place and stop subjecting it to darkness.

Photos of Poinsettias

Contrasting colors of Poinsettias


Red Poinsettia



Pink Poinsettia

Yellow Poinsettia



Blue Poinsettia

Lavender Poinsettia




Orange Poinsettia




Purple Poinsettia




Pink Poinsettia



Photos of other Christmas Flowers


Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus
Epiphytic cacti



African Violets

Yellow Kalanchoe


Flowering Kalanchoe
'Flaming Katy'

Orange Kalanchoe

Fuchia Kalanchoe







Christmas Wreaths

Fresh Christmas trees

Growing Christmas Cactus



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