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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 received one as a gift. But what happens to that beautiful red-and-green plant when the festivities are over? Even after your winter decorations are stowed away, this colorful houseplant can make a lovely addition to your houseplant collection—and you may even be able to coax it into blooming again the next fall.
- Botanical Name: Euphorbia pulcherrima
- Common Name: Poinsettia
- Plant Type: Flowering perennial
- Mature Size: 2–3 feet high as a potted plant; up to 10 feet in native habitat
- Sun Exposure: Direct sunlight
- Soil Type: Well-drained, peat-based soil
- Soil pH: 5.8–6.2
- Toxicity: Toxic to pets
When you first bring your poinsettia home, 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.
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. After the holidays, when the flowers have faded, keep your poinsettia as a houseplant to enjoy its lush green leaves. You can even coax it into flowering again in the fall.
Best Growing Conditions for Poinsettia
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 grows from the area just below 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; near a window facing south, west, or east is ideal. They grow best at temperatures from 65–70 degrees.
Poinsettias come in a variety of colors, whether you prefer classic red, pastel pink, creamy white, or even orange. Look for poinsettias with perky dark-green leaves and tight clusters of buds, indicating that the plant still has plenty of bloom time left.
How to Rebloom Poinsettia
It's possible to rebloom your poinsettia plant after Christmas with a few simple tricks. Water as usual until early April, stop watering and allow the soil to dry out. In May, cut back the foliage so that only about four inches of stem remains, and 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 and 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, removing two or three inches of terminal growth from the stems.
In early fall, start giving your poinsettia plant 12–14 hours of darkness each day, from the beginning of October until Thanksgiving. Simply place it 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.
How to Propagate Poinsettia
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 pot, a clear plastic bag, and a fresh potting mix or fine sand.
It's best to take cuttings for propagation in early summer. If you're attempting to rebloom your plant, you can propagate the stems you remove in May before repotting. Simply follow the steps below.
Step 1: Fill the small pot with fresh potting mix or fine sand, and moisten it well. Poke a hole a few inches deep in the growing medium using a pencil or your pinky finger.
Step 2: Using your shears, remove a healthy-looking six-inch cutting from the mother plant.
Step 3: Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone.
Step 4: Plant the cutting in the hole, and gently pat the growing medium around it to keep it in place.
Step 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.
Step 6: Place the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light (not direct sunlight like you would with 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.
Common Growing Problems
Extreme shifts in temperature can cause poinsettia to drop leaves, so keep your plant away from cold, drafty spots to keep it looking lush and healthy. Also, make sure it's fully drained before putting it back in a foil wrapper—if water collects there, it can lead to root rot, which will kill your plant.