Long Term Care Tips for your Poinsettia
As the holiday season comes to an end, many of you may be noticing that your gorgeous poinsettias are starting to wilt and drop their leaves. Yes, poinsettias are gorgeous and bring a nice pop of color to long dreary winter days, but they also need a little more pampering than most house plants to stay healthy and beautiful well into the winter season. We here at Toadflax love our poinsettias, and feel like they are worth the little extra effort needed to stay healthy, so we put together some tips of the trade to help you keep them viable for several months or more.
When purchasing poinsettias, make sure to take them home as soon as possible. Even though we love our poinsettias in the winter, they are a tropical plant, and as such cannot tolerate cold temperatures. They are typically grown at about 60 to 70 degrees in the greenhouse, and that temperature range is the best to keep them at in the home as well. It is also necessary to keep poinsettias away from dramatic changes between hot and cold, and make sure to not store them anywhere where the temperature can dip below 55°F. Cooler temperatures at night however (around 60 degrees) is ideal for extending their bloom time.
Choosing the right spot to display your beautiful poinsettia is also important for its longevity. Poinsettias need lots of natural sunlight, so a spot near a sunny window is perfect for them. Just make sure none of the leaves touch the cold glass, the cold will cause the leaves to wither. It is also best to choose a spot away from any cold drafts; needless to say, a perch near the front door will result in a dead poinsettia in no time.
One common mistake that many poinsettia owners make is overwatering. These plants need to maintain hydration, but do not like being overly wet. It is best to wait until the surface of the dirt or compost starts to dry, and then you can generously water them. To keep your bracts (the colored leaves) looking great, try keeping the plant on a pebble tray to maintain that humid environment they love. You should also feed your poinsettia with a regular houseplant fertilizer once a week.
If your poinsettia begins to wilt, don’t give up hope and throw it out just yet. Many poinsettias can be brought back to life by soaking their root ball in warm water. Make up bucked of warm water and submerge the root ball for about an hour. Oftentimes, this is all it needs to perk up once again. It is certainly worth a try before you head for the compost pile.
Getting your poinsettia to last through the year until the next holiday season can be tricky, but certainly doable. Once March rolls around, you can slowly reduce watering. You should also prune the plant back hard once the leaves drop. At this time you should also keep the plant fairly dry. In early May, you need to begin increasing your watering again. New shoots should start to develop, and you will need to repot at this time. Once the poinsettia is well developed again, you will need to feed it once a week with a balanced liquid fertilizer, different from the regular houseplant one you used in the winter months.
In mid-October, allow the poinsettia to have about 12 hours of sunlight each day; you can also use an artificial light if needed. The other 12 hours they will need to be kept in the dark, no colder than 65°F. As winter approaches, over the next eight weeks, you will see the green bracts turn to red, just in time for the holiday season once again!