Here it is, January of a new year and you’re looking at a holiday poinsettia that still has some life in it. Now what do you do? How are you going to keep it alive? Do you even WANT to keep it alive?
Poinsettias can go from spectacular to looking as if they had been run over by a herd of wildebeest in an astonishingly short time. This can happen for several reasons but usually it is because you forget to water. Poinsettias do not like to dry out! If your poinsettia has wilted, give it a good drink, taking care not to overwater. It will probably rebound within a few hours but some leaves may never recover and will shrivel and die. A crispy leaf is a dead leaf. Pick off any leaves that are goners.
Many people manage to get their poinsettias to survive for a considerable amount of time but if you want to have beautiful poinsettia blooms next holiday season it will take some precise treatment:
January through mid-September
- Poinsettias need lots of light, which for most of us means an unobstructed south or east-facing window. Set it back a bit from the window since too close can harm it in cold winter weather and burn it in hot summer sun. Avoid a spot that will subject your plant to hot or cold drafts.
- Keep the soil moist but not wet.
- The poinsettia can go outdoors once the nighttime temperatures are 55 degrees or above. Poinsettias are tropical plants so temperatures below 50 degrees will damage them.
- Feed every 1-2 weeks with a complete fertilizer (20-20-20) designed for house plants. When the bracts fade, stop fertilizing and trim the plant back to about 8 inches. (Bracts are the colored parts of the poinsettia that are typically referred to as the “flowers”. The real flowers are the small yellow formations in the center of the bracts.)
- In early June, transplant into a container one size larger using a fast draining commercial potting soil.
- Keep the plant compact and healthy by pinching it back an inch or so during the summer
Mid-September through December
- Maintain a 10 hour daylight / 14 hour darkness regimen for at least six weeks – 10 weeks is even better. The daylight hours should be in bright light and the dark hours must be absolute, uninterrupted darkness. Even a two second flash of light will throw off the blooming schedule. A period of 14 hours of darkness is vital to the re-flowering of your poinsettia! Nighttime temperatures should be between 60 and 70 degrees. Warmer temperatures will delay flowering.
- In mid to late November you should start to see some color in the bracts and you can move the plant back to its normal spot in a sunny window. Your Poinsettia should now be well on its way to holiday blooms!
Note: Poinsettias are not poisonous but some people and pets can be sensitive to the milky sap so it’s a good idea keep pets away and to wear rubber gloves when cutting back a plant.