By Doug Schuster
Most people at one time or another have purchased/received a poinsettia during the Christmas season. I have come across many who are bound and determined to keep their poinsettia not only through the new year but for next Christmas as well. They are always perplexed when their Poinsettia does not become what it was last Christmas. Here are 6 steps to keeping a Poinsettia as a houseplant rather than a seasonal plant.
- Come to Terms: The first day you get your poinsettia is the best it will ever look, it will be nearly impossible to replicate its appearance in years to come. It is coming from a production greenhouse that has catered to what Poinsettias need to grow in an ideal environment. The perfect light, temperature, fertilizer, pest control, and disease control has been provided to this plant, and now it is in your care. So, you need to come to terms with the fact that it looks the best it will ever look right now and that is okay.
- Unpacking: Packaging is crucial for a poinsettia. Poinsettias are native to Mexico. A few minutes spent outside in northern Ohio in December can kill it. The poinsettia you’ve just received should have a protective cover/sleeve on the plant. This cover/sleeve will create a microclimate, trapping warm air around the plant as it is bering transported to its new home. If you have just brought a Poinsettia home and it has no protective covering on it and it is below freezing outside you should expect to see damage on your plant.
- Location: The ideal location for your Poinsettia will be more than likely, not the same place you want to set your poinsettia during the Holiday season, and that’s okay for a period. The key factor in temporary placement is avoiding extreme cold like doorways and extreme heat like next to heating registers. After the holidays, you should place the plant in a south window where it can get plenty of sunlight.
- Watering: A poinsettia should be watered after the first inch of the soil is dry to the touch. Remove decorative cover and place in the kitchen sink and then water the poinsettia with the faucet. You’ll know you’ve watered it enough when water begins to come out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Let the poinsettia sit in the sink for several minutes so all the excess water drains before placing the plant back in the decorative cover.
- After Christmas: Once the holidays are over I would recommend removing the decorative pot cover permanently and place the poinsettia near a window that gets plenty of sun, a south window is preferred. Continue to water as instructed in step 4. Your poinsettia will maintain color until February or so, don’t panic if your plant is dropping a lot of leaves, it is not a lost cause. In March, you should start to see new green growth. Sometimes the growth can be “leggy” (long and stretchy). It can be beneficial to trim your poinsettia between April and June. This will help with new lateral branching and produce a fuller plant. DO NOT TRIM after July 1st. This would also be a good time to begin to provide a general-purpose fertilizer for the Poinsettia.
- Bring Back the Color: When a flower forms on a poinsettia its leaves are modified to provide color, these modified leaves are called bracts. Poinsettias are based on photo period, getting its signals when to flower or when to be in a vegetative state from the length of the day. The poinsettia sets flowers when it receives 13 or more hours of uninterrupted darkness. The easiest way to make sure your poinsettia has color for Christmas is to follow the natural day length. Place the plant in a room that you don’t enter after it gets dark. The poinsettia still needs daylight so there should be a window present but make sure there is no outdoor light that would be coming in the window at night like a streetlight or Christmas lights, this can disrupt the flowering process. Once the poinsettia is in full color it is safe to place the plant wherever you see fit for the Holiday season.