For most Americans, poinsettias are synonymous with Christmas. When the holidays arrive, these bright, colorful plants are everywhere you turn. But did you know that your poinsettias don't have to disappear alongside the rest of the holiday decorations? With a little attention to these poinsettia care basics, you can enjoy poinsettias year-round and showcase their brilliant colors again next year:
Poinsettia origins provide great clues about where poinsettias grow best. These tropical "Christmas flowers" are native to Mexico and Guatemala.1
They flourish with bright light and warm temperatures.
Give your poinsettia a warm, draft-free spot with bright light. Typical household temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal. A window with southern, eastern or western exposure works well.
If you'd like, you can move your poinsettia outdoors to a partially shaded spot once summer arrives. Wait until danger of frost passes and nighttime temperatures stay above 50 F. Be sure and bring your plants indoors
before temperatures drop below 50 F in fall.
Poinsettias get their color from modified leaves known as bracts.
Proper watering is essential for year-round poinsettia health and beautiful holiday color. Poinsettias do best when their potting mix stays evenly moist. Overwatering leads to yellow leaves
, while underwatering causes leaves to wilt and drop.
Water your poinsettia whenever the surface of its potting mix grows dry to the touch. (Most mixes lighten in color as they start to dry out.) Always dump excess water from the plant's cachepot, saucer or decorative foil covering.
Proper feeding helps your poinsettia look great year-round. Peak poinsettia color coincides with a resting period when fertilizer needs are low. Wait to fertilize until the holidays pass and you see new green growth emerge. Then fertilize your poinsettia regularly.
A premium, all-round plant fertilizer such as Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10
provides an ideal blend of essential plant nutrients. Plus, one application keeps feeding your poinsettia for up to four months. Follow the label instructions for your plant's container size. Fertilize your poinsettia every 12 to 16 weeks until holiday color and resting time return.
True poinsettia flowers are small, yellow blooms surrounded by bracts.
In their natural environment, wild poinsettias are large, lanky shrubs, not the compact beauties plant nurseries grow. Timely pruning throughout the growing season helps keep your poinsettia looking its best.
Around Valentine's Day, cut your poinsettia back to 6 inches tall. This encourages compact, branching growth. In late May or early June, cut about 2 inches off each branch. This encourages new side branches to form.
Whenever you prune your poinsettia, avoid contact with the milky sap that drips from cut or broken stems. Despite folk tales, poinsettias aren't poisonous. But people and pets can have adverse reactions to the sap in leaves and stems — especially if it's ingested.2
Pets and people should avoid contact with poinsettia sap.
Pruning time is a perfect time to transplant your poinsettia into a new container. Choose a pot with good drainage one size larger than your current pot. This gives your plant growing room and helps prevent drying out.
Heavy, soggy soil leads to root rot
and other diseases, so choose a well-draining potting mix rich in organic matter such as peat moss. This helps retain moisture but still allows excess water to drain freely.
Mixed with water according to label instructions, Pennington UltraGreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1
reduces transplant shock. And helps keep your poinsettia on track for the holidays.
Poinsettias are naturally large, leggy shrubs.
For most of the year, poinsettias stay green. Then longer autumn nights trigger flowering and color changes. Poinsettia color occurs as modified leaves, known as bracts, shift from green to holiday hues. Your poinsettia's tiny yellow true flowers lie at the center of the brilliant "blooms."
For the best poinsettia color, take your cue from professional growers. Starting in mid- to late September, give your poinsettia 14 to 16 hours of total darkness each night and eight to 10 hours of bright light each day. (Some home gardeners rotate poinsettias in and out of a closet; others use large boxes instead.) When bracts have color — usually around Thanksgiving — return to normal and enjoy the holiday show.
Sounds like too much work? Put your poinsettia where it's free from artificial light — not even a nightlight or a streetlight outside. Then let bracts color naturally. The change won't be as dramatic or as predictable, but you should see some color nonetheless.
From holiday poinsettias to homegrown veggies
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Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.Sources:
1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, "Poinsettias and Their Relatives
2. R.A. Gould Soloway and S. Mekonnen, "Poinsettia Plant Irritating but Not Fatal
," National Capital Poison Center.