Hey plant friends! We’re getting into the time of year when you can find poinsettias just about anywhere you go. Many garden centers carry them, including Garden Gateway! Available in a variety of colors, poinsettias are a festive way to dress up your home or office for the holidays. But did you know that you can keep them alive after the holidays? And have a lovely houseplant in the process? Well you can!
The normal bloom time for Poinsettias is December through January. Did you know that the red (or other colors) you see on them isn’t the bloom? Those are actually leaves called bracts! The blooms are the tiny yellow things in the middle.
When you see your poinsettia at the store or garden center, they sometimes have a clear plastic sleeve around the whole plant. If it’s cold outside, it’s better to leave that on while you take it home, and remove it from the bottom at home. If there’s no plastic sleeve, it’s okay, just minimize the amount of time the plant is exposed to the cold. They don’t like it! If you can, try to cover or wrap the plant with something as you move it between warm spaces. Similarly, they don’t like drafts, so don’t put them near a vent or drafty window.
Poinsettias like water, but not being too wet. When the top inch or two is dry, it’s time to water! When you water your poinsettia, take it out of the shiny cover on the pot, since that keeps too much water in the roots. I like to water it in a sink, or you can use a bowl. Pour the water on the soil, not the plant, and let it soak for about ½-1 hour. Then get rid of the excess water, and let the plant drain for a while, until it’s no longer dripping. When the top of the soil is wet you should water. If they get too dry, they start losing leaves.
When growing poinsettias indoors, they will want around 4-6 hours of bright light, something like sitting near a window or in a bright room. Again, they don’t like big temperature changes, so choose a place that isn’t drafty or near a vent. They’re happiest between 60-80F. Also, you won’t need to fertilize the poinsettia while it is blooming.
As for soil, poinsettias are not picky, so they are usually okay in the soil they came with. If that soil isn’t draining well, though, it would be good to switch it out for some better-draining soil. If you do want to repot, make sure the new pot has drainage. If you’re repotting because the plant has grown, it is best to do it in the spring, since that will encourage bigger growth through the summer. In their natural habitat these guys can get several feet tall! Can you imagine?
Despite common belief, I’m delighted to inform you that they are no more toxic than most of your other houseplants. Studies through the Ohio State University found that a 50-pound child would have to eat 500+ leaves to experience the mild side effect of a stomach ache. (Link to study at the bottom of the article) If they tasted good, this could still be a problem, but they taste pretty terrible. However, the sap can be a skin irritant, so please be careful if pruning or cutting the plant in any way. Gloves would be advised. For pets, if you have a pet that eats plants, this might burn their mouth or give them a stomach ache. If you want to avoid that, keep the plant out of their reach.
How Do I Turn It Red Again?
It may surprise you to learn that Poinsettias are just green for most of the year. If you want to keep your poinsettia year after year, here’s a good timeline of things to expect and do:
In November and December, take care of it as described above, and enjoy your colors. After it’s done blooming, usually in January, the red leaves will fall off. It’s okay! That’s right! The green leaves will usually follow behind their red friends, leaving you with pretty bare sticks. It’s not dead! Keep watering, but only when the soil is dry. This will be a lot less often. Right now the plant is resting. This is about
January through March.
In the spring, April to May-ish, the plant will start waking up. You’ll start seeing new baby leaves, and the plant will start wanting more water. You can also start fertilizing now. If you want, you can repot now, but it’s not necessary. You can also prune now, if desired, but not necessary. You can simply cut each branch back 4-6”, above a leaf node.
Summer! June through August, you can keep watching growing leaves, watering regularly, and fertilizing. Make sure it’s getting bright light, but watch for sunburn. Keeping it in indirect but bright light is the best. Now is when your plant will love growing like crazy.
So far, the care for this creature has been pretty ordinary. Now for the fun part. When Fall arrives, you can start watering less, and mostly stop fertilizing. Fertilize about once a month. The key to convincing your poinsettia to turn red for Christmas is giving it periods of darkness. Start this late September or early October, and continue until the color starts changing. During the day, the poinsettia can stay in its bright spot. But overnight, for 12-14 hours, put the plant in complete darkness. Put it in a closet, or put a box over it, whatever it takes to completely darken its surroundings. If it’s a bit cooler during this period, that’s helpful. After a while, the color will start to change, and you can stop doing the dark treatment and enjoy your lovely poinsettia!
We hope that you enjoy the poinsettias that you get at Garden Gateway, or other garden centers, and that you have success in taking care of them! Enjoy your Christmas colors, and thanks for gardening with the Gardening Moose!