ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Poinsettias are an iconic indoor winter plant. The vibrant red, white and green colors, make this plant a popular choice around the holidays. However, with proper care, poinsettias can add beauty and color to homes for more than just the holiday season.
Allyson Shabel, an Alabama Extension urban home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, offers the following tips on caring for poinsettias.
During the Holidays
These care tips can keep poinsettias healthy during the holidays.
- Place the plant in an area with plenty of natural light, away from vents and drafts that can dry out the pot.
- Water the plant only when dry. If the pot is covered in a holiday foil or decorative wrap, allow excess water to drain. Poinsettias are susceptible to stem and root diseases, so draining the excess water is important.
- Utilize an all-purpose fertilizer (20-20-20) at one-a-month intervals.
After the Holidays
The cost to keep a poinsettia growing for next year is marginal compared to purchasing a new plant every year.
- Remove decorative wraps from the planter after the holiday season and place a saucer underneath it. This allows for better air circulation for the roots during the rest of the growing season.
- Keep water and fertilizer at regular intervals.
- Move the plant to a larger container, with new potting mix, as the plant grows.
- Cut back to 5 to 6 inches if the plant becomes long and leggy. Periodically, cut the tips of the branches to encourage more side branching and to maintain a fuller appearance.
Care Throughout the Year
In the summer, growers should move the plant outside in an area with indirect sunlight. Summer is also the time to increase fertilizer to at least twice the frequency.
In mid-summer, trim the plant as needed to keep a manageable size and fullness and move to a location with full sunlight.
“After Labor Day, bring the plant inside to a location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight, preferably more,” Shabel said. “This will start preparing the plant for their flowers and their colorful foliage. Growers should also start reducing the frequency of fertilizer.”
Long periods of darkness are vital to the iconic colors of the poinsettia. Toward the end of September, they must have at least 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light each day. Placing the plant in a closet, basement, or under a box can give it the required hours of darkness. During the periods of bright light, make sure to rotate the pot to ensure the plant receives even light from all sides.
Just before Thanksgiving, stop the dark period treatments, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer and place the plant in a sunny area that receives at least six hours of direct light.
These tips are sure to keep your poinsettias healthy and happy during and after the holidays. For more information about home gardening, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.