Tips for Keeping Your Poinsettia Healthy All Year
Don’t you love poinsettias? They just scream Christmas. Whether you like them in red or white or pink, they’re everywhere right now. Maybe you have one now and you’re wondering how to care for it through the year, and more importantly, how to get it to bloom again.
Keeping a poinsettia happy and healthy, and particularly getting it to bloom again, is not for the faint of heart. It’s not like, say, a spider plant, that you water when you remember to and it rewards you with little baby spider plants every other week just because (unless you have a cat that eats them, but that’s a story for another day).
Take heart. I’ve got a month-by-month plan below to help you out.
Bringing your Poinsettia Home
At this point, I’m going to assume you already have a poinsettia in your possession. However, if you’re just bringing one home, try to keep the plant wrapped up with plastic or a sheet to protect it from the cold winter temperatures (assuming you live where it’s cold) on its trip. Poinsettias are tropical plants and they are very susceptible to cold injury.
Ok, it’s home and Christmas is over. Now what? Here’s the monthly breakdown for you:
January-March Care Tips
Keep your plant in a nice sunny window (east, south or west-facing, north is too cold if you live in a cold climate). Daytime temps should be 65-75 F and don’t worry if nighttime temps dip as low as 55 F.
As with other houseplants, don’t let any leaves (not even one!) touch the glass of your window. The cold from outside can be transmitted through the glass and into the leaf and damage your plant.
Also, if your windows are drafty like mine are, you’ll want to find another place for your plant. Any kind of drafts (even warm ones from heat sources) should be avoided.
Keep an eye on your poinsettia and water it when the soil feels dry, just as you would with most houseplants.
Be sure the pot has good drainage. If it came with foil around it, best would be to remove the foil. Second best would be to poke holes in the bottom of the foil.
I have to tell you, it’s best to mist your plant with water daily during these months if your house is dry. This isn’t something I’ve done in the past and my plant has survived. However, I plan to try it going forward and see if it makes a difference.
April Care Tips
You’ll want to cut back a bit on watering, making sure the plant is quite dry between waterings (but not so dry that the stem starts to wilt. That’s baaaaad!!!)
Around mid-April, move your plant to a location where the temps stay at about 60 F and it gets between 12 and 15 hours of darkness each night.
May Care Tips
Now you’re going to need to repot your plant into new potting soil and cut it back to about 4 inches. If you’re like me, this is the painful part. “It’s so pretty and green, I can’t cut it back like that!”
I know, I know, but you’ve got to do it or you’re going to end up with a leggy mess of a plant come fall. Really, only Rockettes should be that leggy. So, be ruthless and cut that baby back!
Once it’s trimmed and repotted, back into the nice, warm (65-75 F) sunny window it goes. Regular watering (as you did in January through March) resumes and as soon as you see new growth (which won’t take long) start fertilizing with the houseplant fertilizer of your choice every 2 weeks.
June Care Tips
Now’s the time to bring your plant outside. Partial shade is best. Continue your watering and fertilizing schedule, but be very careful to keep an eye on your plant as it may dry out quickly in the higher June temperatures.
July Care Tips
In July, and then again in August, you need to pinch the stems (new growth) back by about an inch. This encourages bushy growth (no long, leggy Rockettes for you!) Continue watering and fertilizing as above.
Mid-August through September Care
Bring your plant back into the house and continue your watering and fertilizing schedule through the rest of August and September, being sure to keep temps above 65 F.
October Care Tips
Buckle up, buttercup! This is where things get interesting! If you want your plant to bloom again, you MUST put it in a dark place from 5pm to 8am starting October first. During the day, the sunny window and watering and fertilizing schedule should continue.
What I need to stress, and can’t stress enough, is that the dark place must be DARK. Not a closet that you might occasionally open and let a flash of light in, or a darkened room that has a nightlight. When I say dark, I mean complete, utter, deep-in-a-cave, scary, black darkness.
It sounds like overkill, but if even ONE flash of light interrupts the 15 hours of darkness for your plant on even ONE day, it WILL NOT BLOOM. I know it sounds nuts, but it’s true. As soon as the plant “sees” that flash of light, no matter how dim, the cycle is interrupted and blooming will not occur. Crazy, right?
As you can see, I wasn’t successful this year getting last year’s poinsettia to rebloom, although it is nice and healthy. I did everything “right”, but it decided to be finicky.
I think the problem was that I had nothing to put it in to keep it dark except a suitcase. I have a feeling that a tiny bit of light may have leaked in around the zipper and prevented it from blooming. Next year, if I use the suitcase again, I’ll drape a blanket over it too!
UPDATE: Around the very beginning of February, the above poinsettia rewarded me with one, yes one, red leaf. I believe it’s mocking me. Jerk!
Set an Alarm
It’s tough to remember to put your plant away every evening and take it out every morning. Trust me when I tell you to set a recurring alarm or ask Alexa to set a reminder (yes, she will do that!). Otherwise, you WILL forget.
You have to do this for more than 40 days, every day. Unless you’re some kind of alien being with a super advanced memory, it’s not gonna happen!
Remember trying to be the tooth fairy for your kids? Or maybe you’ve just come off of 25 days of Elf on the Shelf. Set an alarm.
November Care Tips
Through the end of November, continue the regimen of 15 hours of darkness with the nice, sunny window during the day, watering and fertilizing as usual. You should start to see buds by the end of November.
At this point, discontinue the 15 hours of darkness. Also, remember that the bloom of a poinsettia is not the red (or pink or white) leaves. It is the little yellowy things in the middle of the colored leaves. That’s what you’re looking for as far as buds go.
December Care Tips
By mid-December, your plant should be blooming. Discontinue fertilizer at this time and just continue with watering and the sunny window.
You did it! You’ve made it through a full year with your poinsettia and (if you’re really diligent and just a little bit lucky) it’s blooming beautifully!
Are Poinsettias Poisonous?
One last note: You may have heard that poinsettias are poisonous and you shouldn’t have them if you have cats and dogs. The poisonous nature of poinsettias has been greatly overdramatized over the years and should not be a concern.
If eaten, they are likely to cause stomach upset, but they are not any more “poisonous” than most other household plants.
Poinsettias do, however, exude a milky sap if broken or cut (much like milkweed). This sap can be extremely irritating, especially if you get it into your eyes. Be sure to wash your hands and clippers thoroughly after clipping or pinching your poinsettia and you’ll be good to go.
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If you have an appropriate board, I’d love it if you could pin the pics below.
As always, smile and have a crazy organic day!