How to Care for (and Propagate) Your Poinsettia Plants

red and green poinsettia on wooden coffee table in front of red couch

 Carol Yepes/Getty Images

For many households, purchasing poinsettias to decorate for the holidays is an annual ritual. Maybe you purchased one to make a charming Christmas centerpiece, or perhaps you’ve received one as a gift. But what happens to that beautiful red-and-green plant when the festivities are over? 

The first step is choosing a fresh, lively specimen, whether you prefer classic red, pastel pink, or creamy white.

Even after your winter decorations are stowed away, this colorful houseplant can be a verdant addition to your houseplant collection—and you may even be able to coax it into blooming again the next fall.

The first step is choosing a fresh, lively specimen, whether you prefer classic red, pastel pink, or creamy white. Look for poinsettias with perky, dark green leaves and tight clusters of buds, which indicate that the plant still has plenty of bloom time left. 

potted green poinsettia in front of red wall with other houseplants

Best Growing Conditions for Your Poinsettia Plant

The poinsettia plants you purchase during the holiday season have been forced into bloom by growers in time for the festivities. The red “petals” we prize are actually leaflike bracts surrounding small, cup-shaped yellow blooms, although the bracts last longer than the tiny flowers.

What is a Bract

A bract is a modified leaf that typically features a flower or flower cluster. Bracts differ from typical leaves and are sometimes a different size or color than the true flower.

To extend the bloom time as much as possible, keep your poinsettia in a place with bright, direct sunlight—in a window facing south, west, or east is ideal. They grow best at temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees. Extreme shifts in temperature can cause them to drop leaves, so keep your plant away from cold, drafty spots to keep it looking lush and healthy.

How to Care for Your Poinsettia Plant

When you first bring home your poinsettia plant, check its soil every couple of days to establish how frequently you’ll need to water. Water the plant when the soil feels dry, and be sure to water deeply. If your home is particularly dry in winter and your plant is getting sufficient sunlight, you may find yourself watering more frequently.  

poinsettia with green leaves in green and red pot on black wooden stand against white wall

If your poinsettia has a foil wrapper around its pot, remove this before watering and allow the plant to drain fully in the sink before putting it back in the wrapper. If water collects there, it can lead to root rot, which will kill your plant. 

After the holidays when the flowers have faded, you can keep your poinsettia as a houseplant to enjoy its lush, tropical green leaves. You can also care for the plant as described below to coax it into flowering again in the fall.

How to Re-Bloom Your Poinsettia Plant

It’s possible to re-bloom your poinsettia plant after Christmas with a few simple tricks. Water as usual until early April, then stop watering and allow the soil to dry out. In May, cut back the foliage so that only about four inches of stem remains, then repot the plant in fresh potting mix. 

Buying a poinsettia while holiday shopping? Plan to pick up the plant at the end of your trip so that it isn't damaged by cold temperatures in your car while you're still hunting for gifts.

Water the plant well and resume regular watering, allowing the soil to dry out in between. Once temperatures are above 55 degrees at night in the spring, you can move your poinsettia plant outdoors—first in a shady spot, then slowly acclimating it to full sun. 

When you see new growth, begin feeding your poinsettia with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength every two weeks. Continue this routine, and in July, pinch back an inch of growth from the end of each stem. Pinch back growth again in early September, this time removing two or three inches of terminal growth from stems.

In early fall, start giving your poinsettia plant 12 to 14 hours of darkness each day, from the beginning of October until Thanksgiving. Simply place your poinsettia plant in a dark closet or cover it with a cardboard box to keep the light out each evening—then put it back in its usual sunny spot in the morning. This should trick it into blooming just in time for the holiday season. 

Once Thanksgiving arrives, you can leave your plant in its usual spot and stop fertilizing. With a little luck, you’ll soon see cheery red blooms to help you celebrate the holidays. 

red and green poinsettia plant in red pot in front of christmas decorations
Carol Yepes/Getty Images

How to Propagate Your Poinsettia Plant

Poinsettias are simple to propagate via stem cuttings. To do this, you’ll need a healthy mother plant, clean shears or a knife, rooting hormone powder, a small plant pot, a clear plastic bag, and fresh potting mix or fine sand.

It’s best to take cuttings for propagation in early summer. If you’re attempting to re-bloom your plant, you can propagate the stems you remove in May before repotting. Just follow the steps below.

  1. Fill the small pot with fresh potting mix or fine sand and moisten it well with water. Poke a hole a few inches deep in the growing medium using a pencil or your pinky finger.
  2. Using your shears, remove a healthy-looking six-inch cutting from the mother plant. 
  3. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone. 
  4. Plant the cutting in the hole you made and gently pat the growing medium around it to keep it in place.  
  5. Cover the cutting with the plastic bag, arranging it so that the leaves aren’t touching the bag. This will create a more humid environment for the cutting. 
  6. Place the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light (not direct sunlight as you would a mature poinsettia). You should see new growth after around four weeks, which indicates that the plant is growing new roots. At this point, you can remove the plastic bag and care for the plant as usual.

Related Stories