Delve into the secrets of how to keep a Poinsettia plant alive as we delve into caring for this holiday classic. The Poinsettia, scientifically known as euphorbia pulcherrima is a cherished part of many holiday traditions. With the right care and a touch of horticultural finesse, you can transform this vibrant plant into a perennial symbol of your holiday celebrations. Join me as we explore the art of keeping your poinsettia plant alive and thriving, gracing your home with colorful bracts and vibrant leaves, season after season. Let’s get growing!
How to Keep a Poinsettia Plant Alive
The poinsettia has become synonymous with the holiday season, much like the Christmas star in many parts of the world.
Did you know that with proper care, these festive plants can grow into tree-like structures? I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the art of how to keep a poinsettia plant alive year-round. Allow me to share the insights I’ve gained so that your poinsettias continue to bloom, brightening all your holiday traditions!
Down here in the South, a cherished Christmas tradition involves adorning the church auditorium with poinsettias in honor of loved ones who have passed on. The room overflows with poinsettias of every color. After the final service before Christmas day, everyone is invited to take their poinsettia home for the holidays, symbolizing the memory of their loved one. It’s a beautiful tradition.
A few years back, as I assisted some elderly members in gathering their poinsettias, one of the ladies kindly offered me some extras to take home and keep for the following year. Perplexed, I must have shown it on my face, prompting her to say, “Honey, did you know you can keep them for years?” I had to admit my ignorance. Graciously, she introduced me to the practice of keeping a poinsettia plant alive year-round, a tradition I’ve been grateful for ever since.
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Will a Poinsettia Rebloom With Proper Care?
Even with meticulous care, the question of whether a poinsettia will rebloom remains uncertain. However, there’s no need to lose hope. By taking some extra steps, you can provide your poinsettia with the optimal conditions for sustained life, growth, and the possibility of blooming for years.
It’s important to note that your poinsettia won’t regain the exact appearance it had when you first brought it home. The reason behind this is quite interesting— the poinsettia you typically purchase is essentially a cutting from a sapling.
Despite the differences in appearance, there’s an exciting prospect for cultivating your own poinsettias with that classic “store-bought” appearance. Later on, we’ll delve into how you can use pruned pieces to start new plants, ensuring a continuous cycle of vibrant poinsettias in your home.
Selecting the Perfect Poinsettia
The first step in how to keep a poinsettia plant alive for years starts with the selection process at the garden center. Look for dark green leaves, and if it already has colored leaves, ensure the color is vibrant.
Check to be sure the poinsettia’s height and width of the poinsettia are in proportion with the pot it’s in. This is a good indication it is not root-bound. Another way to determine if the poinsettia is root-bound is to loosen the dirt around its edges and examine the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes. If the roots are clumped up around the top of the soil or in the bottom of the pot, it’s root-bound.
Finally, inspect the flower clusters. Opt for tight clusters of yellow with no visible pollen for a healthy poinsettia.
If the poinsettia displays drooping or lifeless leaves, it might be beyond recovery; refrain from purchasing such plants if you’re considering how to keep a poinsettia plant alive. Stick to these guidelines unless you’re passionate about rescuing near-lost causes in houseplants.
Once you’ve chosen the ideal poinsettia, ensure its protection during the ride home. Avoid exposing it to cold drafts or freezing night temperatures.
The emphasis on selecting a healthy plant is crucial due to the extended blooming season of poinsettias, which typically begins in late November and lasts until February, contributing to the plant’s longevity and your success in keeping a poinsettia plant alive.
What is the best place to keep a poinsettia?
Once your poinsettia is safely home, find a spot where it can bask in plenty of light without receiving direct sunlight. Here are some key tips for how to keep a poinsettia plant alive during the holiday season:
- Avoid high-traffic areas: Prevent your poinsettia from being bumped or knocked over.
- Steer clear of drafty spots: Don’t place it where temperature changes can confuse or harm it, such as next to a cold window.
- Keep it away from heat sources: Ensure it stays within the preferred temperature range of 60-70 degrees F throughout the holiday season. This is crucial as, being a tropical plant, it thrives in these conditions, contributing to the overall success of keeping a poinsettia plant alive.
Watering Your Poinsettia During the Holiday Season
Maintain the vitality of your poinsettia by letting the soil dry between waterings, akin to caring for an Aloe plant or African Violet. Avoid the common pitfall of overwatering, a leading cause of poinsettia death.
If you decide to leave the poinsettia pot in its holiday-colored foil, you will want to poke holes in the bottom of the pot foil so water will drain properly.
When watering, focus on saturating the soil in the kitchen sink and allow the pot to drain excess water. The key isn’t just the amount of water but ensuring the soil drains well, preventing the risk of root rot and potential plant demise.
Keep a close eye on your poinsettia’s leaves—they act as indicators. Yellowing and dropping leaves signify overwatering while wilting and the loss of middle and lower leaves suggests insufficient hydration. Strike the right balance for a flourishing poinsettia throughout the holiday season.”
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Nurturing Poinsettias for Reblooming Success
After the holidays, the job of how to keep a poinsettia plant alive begins. Once pruned, consider placing it outdoors if temperatures range between 60-70 degrees F. Keep in mind that poinsettias prefer outdoor living, being tropical plants, though finding these conditions year-round in the United States can be challenging.
Ensure night temperatures are above 50 degrees F to prevent shock and potential damage. When placing your poinsettia outside, provide shelter to shield it from direct sun, rain, or wind exposure.
A Guide to Shaping Your Poinsettia
Remember I mentioned pruning earlier as part of caring for a poinsettia? There are three ways to prune your poinsettia. Each way gives the plant a different look.
- To maintain a compact bushy appearance, trim any side shoots off the main stem, to about 6” above the base. Use the cuttings to propagate more poinsettias by rooting them in soil, following the same care routine.
- For a fuller, bushier poinsettia, prune the top section of all large side shoots at a 45-degree angle, using sharp shears. Pinch off new growth until mid to late July, allowing the plant to develop the desired bushy shape.
- To cultivate a tree-like poinsettia, eliminate all side shoots from the main stem, leaving the top leaves and any upper flower cluster intact. Pinch off any emerging side shoots, but refrain from trimming the top. Continue this practice until mid to late July, allowing unrestricted growth.
Regardless of your chosen pruning style, ensure you leave one to three leaves on each old stem or branch, as new growth originates from buds in the leaf axils.
After pruning, give your plant a few days to recover before transitioning it outdoors. Remember, pruning can be a shock to any plant, and adopting these techniques is crucial for knowing how to keep a poinsettia plant alive and thriving.
Post-Holiday Poinsettia Light Needs
Now that the holidays have passed, and you’ve sculpted your poinsettia into the desired shape, it’s time to cater to its light needs by acclimating it to outdoor life. This process is called hardening off.
- Avoid placing it in full sun immediately, as sudden exposure can scorch the remaining leaves, causing permanent damage to the plant.
- For the initial two weeks outdoors, provide full shade for your poinsettia.
- After the first two weeks, transition it to a spot with partial shade for the next two weeks.
- Finally, after the two weeks of partial shade, move the poinsettia to a sunny location with full sun exposure.
How to Keep a Poinsettia Plant Alive Late Winter Through Early Spring
Late winter to early spring marks the ideal time for pruning, and this holds true for your poinsettias as well. While pruning and thinning may seem daunting, they are beneficial for the plants. This is my most hated gardening chore so I understand how difficult it may be.
Once your poinsettia completes its flowering cycle, it’s time for pruning. Follow the shape preferences discussed earlier and proceed with pruning your plant.
In early March, begin a fertilizing routine for your poinsettia, applying it every two weeks.
Poinsettia Needs in Late Spring – Summer
In late April to early May, give your poinsettia room to flourish by moving it to a larger pot. Opt for well-draining soil, such as succulent soil, or create your own blend by mixing peat moss and vermiculite with garden soil in a 1:1 ratio.
For those considering outdoor living for their poinsettia, there are options. In areas with mild winters, plant it directly into loose, well-draining soil, ensuring the crown is level with the surface of the soil. I don’t have great success with planting directly into the ground, but I know some people who do.
However, If you live in an area where you have hard freezing temperatures, this method will not work for you. Consider repotting into a larger container suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings.
Avoid exposing your plant to the outdoors until nighttime temperatures are at least 50 degrees to prevent permanent damage.
Fertilize your poinsettia every two weeks with your preferred houseplant fertilizer. During these months, your poinsettia is in a resting phase, having worked hard all winter. All you need to do for these few months is water and fertilize it as needed.
Poinsettia Needs During Fall
Understanding your local frost dates is crucial. Bring your poinsettia indoors before the first frost, as freezing temperatures can be fatal for most plants. You can learn more about planting zones in our article.
If you planted your poinsettia in the ground, deep mulch and frost protection are essential. Remember, avoid planting directly in the ground if you experience hard freezing temperatures.
If outdoor temperatures stay above 50 degrees F, feel free to place your poinsettia outdoors during the day. For those, like me, who may forget to bring it in, a sunny window serves as a suitable alternative.
Through the fall, maintain your watering and fertilizing routine to ensure the well-being of your poinsettia.
When to Put the Poinsettia in the Dark
As September draws to a close, it’s time to mimic the same conditions of complete darkness you would provide for your Christmas Cactus. You can read about caring for Christmas Cactus in our post dedicated to it.
- Provide 15 hours of complete darkness daily, from 5 PM to 8 AM. Ensure absolute darkness, even excluding streetlamp light, in the room or closet where the poinsettia resides.
Maintain this darkness routine diligently from late September until around the first of December, adjusting as closely to the specified times as your schedule permits.
- Between 8 AM and 5 PM, place your plant where it can receive ample light.
During this period, maintain the temperature for the poinsettia between 60-70 degrees F. Nighttime temperatures above 70 can delay reflowering.
When the leaves begin changing color, stop the nighttime darkness routine, allowing your poinsettia exposure to full light.
After the dark hours have ended, fertilize the poinsettia once a month, being cautious not to overwater.
If you’re not able or prefer not to move the poinsettia in and out of darkness, you can use a 100w warm white fluorescent bulb from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Don’t use a grow light because it isn’t warm white light. Use one bulb for every plant, place the bulb 1 1/2 feet above the plant. Be sure to adjust the distance as the plant grows.
Avoid using a grow light; opt for a warm white light instead. Use one bulb per plant, positioning it 1 1/2 feet above the plant, and adjusting the distance as the plant grows.
Note: Some individuals use HPS lights, but be aware that these lights emit a signature that law enforcement may track, as they are commonly used for growing plants that remain illegal in most states.
Final Tips for How to Keep a Poinsettia Plant Alive
As we reach the one-year mark, it’s nearly time to showcase your poinsettia once again. Here are some final tips to ensure your poinsettia provides a dazzling holiday display for your family throughout the winter.
- During blackout hours, avoid disturbing the poinsettia.
- While 14 hours of darkness is the minimum, optimal results come with 16 hours of nighttime darkness, especially if using light bulbs during daylight hours from 8 AM to 5 PM.
- When the poinsettia leaves begin ‘rusting out,’ you know they believe it’s fall. Rusting out means the tips of the leaves are starting to change color.
- Once it begins to flower, it’s time to expose your poinsettia plant to sunlight. Provide either sunlight or warm white fluorescent light for 9 but no more than 10 hours a day. This regimen will keep your poinsettia flowering until February and possibly as late as May.
- If your poinsettia is still flowering and you’re ready to transition it for rest, expose it to 100w warm white fluorescent light bulbs for a continuous 24 hours. This will deceive it into thinking it’s springtime and time to rest.
Is Keeping a Poinsettia Plant Alive Year Round Worth It?
That’s a good question, and there are at least two schools of thought on it.
One school of thought comes from those who like the challenge of knowing how to keep a poinsettia plant alive, taking care of it, and seeing how it grows and develops.
The other school of thought comes from those who question the effort, especially considering they only truly shine during the holidays. After all, you can do everything right, and there’s still no guarantee it will rebloom the following year.
I believe there’s a balance to all things. There is always a risk-reward element involved in gardening, no matter how experienced you are.
How do you feel about taking care of a poinsettia from one Christmas season to the next? Is it too much work, or do you see it as a rewarding challenge?
Now that we’ve looked at all the aspects of maintaining a lively poinsettia from one festive season to another, you can decide if you want to keep your poinsettia plant alive all year round or not. Whether you take pleasure in nurturing its growth or question the effort for a temporary display, striking a delicate balance is key. Gardening, essentially, involves a dance of risk and reward, regardless of your level of expertise.
When considering how to keep a poinsettia plant alive, ponder the satisfaction derived from embracing the natural cycle of growth and rest. It’s an opportunity to nurture resilience in nature and discover the gratification that comes with dedicated care.