Millions of poinsettias are purchased each year during the Christmas season. Proper selection will help to ensure a long lasting plant that you will enjoy throughout the holiday season.
Avoid plants that appear wilted and neglected. Check for signs of insects by looking at the underside of several leaves and avoid plants whose leaves are spotted and yellow. Next, check to see if the flowers are still on the plant. Remember, the color of a poinsettia is provided by modified leaves called bracts. The flowers are the golden yellow clusters located at the center of the bracts. Finally, never buy a plant that is displayed with a paper or plastic sleeve pulled up around the entire plant. The leaves will turn yellow and may fall off prematurely, if a plant has been sleeved too long.
Taking Your Plant Home
If you live in an area where freezing temperatures are common in December, you will have to provide some protection to your poinsettia when transporting it to your home. The store should provide a paper sleeve or plastic bag that will cover the plant. Even so, never expose the plant to cold temperatures for more than a few minutes; a chilled plant will begin to drop their leaves very quickly. Once inside, remove the protective wrapping immediately and enjoy your new poinsettia
With proper care, your poinsettia will last through the holiday season and retain its bracts well into the New Year. Pay close attention to the following care tips:
- Place in a room where there is sufficient natural light to read fine print but not where the sun will shine directly on the plant.
- Avoid hot or cold drafts, or excess heat from appliances or heating ducts. Poinsettias are extremely sensitive to cold and plants will drop leaves when exposed to cool temperatures.
- Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface is dry to a depth of approximately 1 inch depending on pot size. Excess water will also cause the poinsettia to drop its leaves, therefore careful monitoring of the plant’s moisture level is necessary. Always discard excess water from an underlying saucer.
- Set the plant in or on a waterproof container to protect your furnishings.
- To prolong the bright color of the bracts, temperatures should not exceed 72°F during the day or 60°F at night.
Reflowering Your Poinsettia
If you have a gardener’s green thumb, you may want to try your hand at re-flowering your poinsettia next year. If you follow these directions very carefully, it is possible to have your poinsettia in flower by Christmas
Full bloom. Water as needed
Color fades. Keep near a sunny window and fertilize when new growth appears with Plant Prod’s All Purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer. Cut stems back to approximately 8 inches.
Repot if necessary. Fertilize approximately once every five weeks. Continue to water when dry to the touch. Move outside if temperatures do not fall below 50°F. Place in light shade.
Take inside. Cut stems back, leaving three or four stems per shoot. Place in a sunny window. Water and fertilize as needed.
Sept. 20 to Dec. 1
Keep in light from 8 AM to 5 PM ONLY. Place in the dark (No Lights) from 5 PM to 8 AM.
Note: the key to success is to follow the strict light/dark instruction very carefully.
The assigned botanical name for the poinsettia is Euphorbia pulcherrima. The United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett, sent several plants back to his home in Greenville, South Carolina in 1825. The common name, poinsettia, comes from his last name.
The poinsettia is not a poisonous plant. Research from major universities has proven that the poinsettia is not lethal to humans and pets. However, your poinsettia and all house plants should be out of reach of small children since varying degrees of discomfort may be experienced if plants are ingested.