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Sandy's Garden

Poinsettia care
after Christmas

Caring for poinsettias and getting them to re-bloom

By: Sandy Feather ©2011
Penn State Extension


Q. My grandchildren bought me a lovely poinsettia, and I would like to keep it over for next Christmas. Can you tell me how to keep poinsettias healthy and how to get them to bloom at the right time next Christmas?
  

 

A. To keep your poinsettia growing well during this yearís Christmas season, keep it in a sunny window devoid of hot afternoon sun. Hot afternoon sun is typically on the south or west side of your house, while morning sun on the east is much more 'gentle.' Do not allow the poinsettia's foliage to touch cold glass. Although poinsettias will require more frequent watering in the sun, ample sunlight keeps its colorful bracts bright. (What people think of as poinsettia flowers are actually colorful leaves that are correctly called bracts; the true flowers of a poinsettia are the small, yellowish structures in the center of the bracts.)

Mass of pink poinsettias

Avoid placing your poinsettia where it will be subjected to cold drafts (near outside doors, cold air vents, leaky windows). Poinsettias are tropical plants, and can be injured by temperatures below 50 degrees. Keep the soil evenly moist, but never soaking wet. Be sure to remove decorative foil from the pot when watering; you can replace the foil when water stops running through the drainage holes. You don't want it holding excess water next to the roots since it can cause root rot. Alternatively, punch holes in the foil toward the bottom to allow excess water to drain.


Fertilization

Fertilize your poinsettia every 2 to 3 weeks with a complete water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength while bracts are showing color. Something with a fertilizer analysis such as 20-20-20 will work well.

Red Poinsettias

Poinsettia bracts generally fade in late March or April. Continue to 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 six to eight inches. This keeps your poinsettia from getting too tall and leggy. Itís 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. 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 begins active growth again.

Repotting

In early June, when your poinsettia is putting on strong new growth, repot it into a pot that is one size larger than its current container.  If a plant is repotted into too large a pot, the root system is surrounded by a large volume of soil that stays wet too long after a good soaking, which can cause root rot. Once it is transplanted, place it back in a sunny window. Your poinsettia can also spend the summer outside in a sunny location protected from the hottest afternoon sun and drying winds.

Pink Poinsettias

Fertilize every other week with a 'complete' fertilizer (i.e. 20-20-20 which is one with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). To encourage bushy poinsettia plants, pinch the new growth back by an inch or two in July. You can repeat the pinching again in late August if your poinsettia is growing very vigorously. If you choose to summer your poinsettia outside, be sure to move it back indoors before night temperatures fall below 60 degrees.

Insects

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

Getting a poinsettia to bloom again

Getting your poinsettia to bloom for next Christmas requires a little planning on your part. Poinsettias bloom in response to long nights. You should start the last week of September or the first week of October to have poinsettias in bloom for Christmas.  Move your poinsettia to a closet, unused room, or cover with box or basket. It requires 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness every night for eight to ten weeks. Turning on a light, even briefly, will delay flowering. Move your poinsettia back to a sunny location during the day. Once the colorful bracts begin to appear, you can leave it in its normal place again.
  

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