Long Term Care Tips For Your Poinsettia

As the holiday season progresses, many of you may notice that your pretty poinsettias start 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 houseplants 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.

Choosing the Perfect Poinsettia

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.

How to Display Your Poinsettia

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 as 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.

Poinsettia Watering Guide

One common mistake that many poinsettia owners make is over watering. 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. Take a bucket 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.

Keep Your Poinsettia All Year Long

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 re-pot 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!  

How to Care For a Christmas Cactus

maintaining a christmas cactus Indoor gardening is a popular pastime for many avid gardeners, especially in the Northeast where cold and snowy winters keep many of us inside for several months. Being able to keep something growing all year long, however, is a great way to beat the winter blues. Christmas cacti are an easy houseplant option.

Christmas Cactus Basics

Contrary to what their name would lead you to believe, Christmas cacti are not actually desert plants. They do like warmer daytime temperatures, but prefer a humid climate, not a dry, desert-like one. There are actually several different types of cacti with holiday names, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter cacti. They are differentiated by the appearance of their leaves and their typical bloom time.

Christmas Cactus Growing Conditions

Fortunately, Christmas cacti aren’t terribly picky about the soil in which they are planted. They do require proper drainage, however, so be sure their pot has drainage holes. When planted indoors, the cacti should have access to bright but indirect light and be kept at a daytime temperature of around 70 degrees F. Nighttime temperatures should be between 60 and 65 degrees F for ideal growing conditions.

Christmas Cactus Care

Although it is easy to grow, a Christmas cactus is not a plant-and-forget type of houseplant. You should check the soil periodically to be sure that it does not become too dry. Once the top inch of soil is dry to the touch, soak it until water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. You will want a drainage tray under the pot to catch excess water, but be sure the pot does not sit in water very long as the roots can rot. Proper watering is important all the time, but especially when the plant is flowering. Prior to and during bloom times, it is also important to keep the plant cool (around 60-65 degrees F). Just like other plants, Christmas cacti grow better when they are fertilized. From spring to early fall, you can feed them with a houseplant fertilizer every two weeks, reducing to once a month during fall and winter. Yearly pruning (typically in June) can also be done to encourage new growth, branching of stems, and more blooms. Whether you are new to indoor gardening, or you’re a seasoned expert, we are here to answer any questions you may have. Stop by our garden center to get your Christmas cactus and get growing!