by Matt Gibson
Poinsettias are often purchased or gifted around Christmas time to decorate the house during the holiday season. Their bright red flowers and dark green foliage is perfect for decor to boost your home’s holiday cheer. Oftentimes, around New Years, when folks are taking down Christmas decorations, they unfortunately toss out poinsettias during the clean-up.
However, many people don’t know that poinsettias can easily be cleaned up, pruned, repotted, and turned into a beautiful houseplant that can live for many years with just a little bit of additional care. So, instead of tossing out your poinsettias after Christmas this year, learn how to maintain them and care for them throughout the year and enjoy their beauty for much longer than you ever thought possible.
How do you take care of a poinsettia indoors?
After Christmas, poinsettia care is all about providing a growing environment that suits the plant for indoor growth and longevity. If you have already been providing your poinsettia with a bright, sunny location, such as a windowsill or a perch near an open window, you have a good head start. Poinsettias need six hours of bright, indirect sunlight on a daily basis.
Most likely, your poinsettia came in a small disposable container wrapped in glossy, decorative paper, perfect for keeping your holiday plant happy until just after Christmas, but not much longer than that. One of the first things that you should do to get your poinsettia ready for year round indoor growth by repotting it and trimming it back, so that it can begin making the transition from a decorative seasonal plant to a beautiful indoor houseplant.
Start by picking out a container that is two or three times as big as the one your poinsettia came in, or even bigger than that if you like. The poinsettia grows incredibly fast, so the bigger the container, the more time you buy yourself before you need to repot the poinsettia. Once you have a container selected, fill it about halfway with a light, sterile potting mix with lots of perlite and vermiculite. Poinsettias aren’t particular about the specific ingredients of the potting mix, however, they just need a light, well-draining mix that has good absorption capabilities.
Remove the plastic trellis with clippers and plant your poinsettia about two inches below the rim of the pot. Once you have it positioned where you want it, fill in the sides and top with more potting mix to secure it in its new home.
The next step is defoliation. While it may seem a bit drastic, the best thing to do for the long-term health of your poinsettia is to remove all of the red portion of the plant. Poinsettias turn red because of shock, and typically die just after the holidays when their blooms start to fade. The defoliation process is sort of like an emergency surgery, and is absolutely essential if you want to keep your poinsettias around year after year. If you just want to keep your poinsettia in bloom for as long as possible after the holidays, this article will point you in the right direction. Keep in mind, if you force the poinsettia to stay red, its lifespan will be severely shortened.
To defoliate, use a sharp pair of pruning shears and remove the top portion of each branch down past the first green leaf node. If there is a transition leaf, that is green but has a little bit of red on it, clip the branch below the next one down which is fully green. Once you are finished, your poinsettia may look a little sad, but don’t worry, these plants grow incredibly fast and by next holiday season, you will have an enormous, beautiful, lush poinsettia on your hands for all of your neighbors and friends to envy.
Throughout the year, fertilize your poinsettia once per month with a nitrogen heavy fertilizer, such as a 10-5-5, which will help the plant concentrate on growing lush foliage. Just before the fall season, slowly transition to a fertilizer that is slightly phosphorus heavy, like a 5-7-5. Little by little, start to deprive the plant of daylight to encourage blooming. To do this, move the plant to a dark room for a few hours each day, increasing the time it stays in darkness two or three hours per day until it is in the dark for 14 to 16 hours daily. Once it starts to bloom again, gradually reintroduce the poinsettia to regular daytime sunlight exposure.
How long do poinsettias live indoors?
Typically, poinsettias live from early fall until the New Year, and if provided with sufficient sunlight and water, they can continue to survive until around Valentine’s day. However, if you are interested in keeping your poinsettias around to deck the halls for another year or even longer, it is possible to keep them for as long as you deem necessary, with a little bit of TLC and attention.
If given the proper care and growing environment, poinsettias can continue to grow and bloom year after year. Keep in mind, a lot of work is involved in keeping your poinsettias happy and thriving, but if you are willing to put in the effort, poinsettias will live for as many years as you are committed to caring for them.
How do you keep a poinsettia alive year round?
Poinsettias can survive year after year if you give them the proper growing environment and lots of love and attention. Repeat the care instructions for post holiday care detailed above each year for continued success.
In summary, you will need to repot your poinsettia, teasing the roots to allow it to expand into a much larger container. Repotting just after the holidays during the first year just after New Year’s day is essential and increasing the pot size every two to three years afterwards is also recommended. To keep your poinsettias from becoming too large, you could also divide the plant every two to three years instead of increasing pot size. Poinsettias also require six hours of indirect sunlight each day, weekly watering, and a steady supply of 10-5-5 (or any nitrogen heavy) fertilizer on a regular basis throughout the year. When it is time to get your poinsettias to flower, switch fertilizer to a 5-7-5 (or phosphorus heavy) mix. Use a loose, well-draining, but highly absorbent potting mix for best results. Gradually introduce periods of darkness when you switch fertilizers to help promote blooming.
Are poinsettias poisonous or toxic to people and pets?
Though poinsettias often get a bad wrap for being toxic to pets and even children, they are only mildly toxic, ingestion may get your pets sick but rarely leads to the need for any medical attention. Some people, however, are allergic to poinsettias, often people who are also allergic to latex, as the two share several protein compounds. So, in short, poinsettias are not lethally, but mildly toxic, but can cause mouth rashes and upset stomachs, as well as mild skin irritation to those who are allergic to the plant. Learn more: https://www.poison.org/articles/2014-dec/poinsettias
Do poinsettias come back year after year?
If given the proper care and growing environment, poinsettias will come back year after year. They also grow incredibly fast. Blooming will have to be encouraged by introducing darkness intervals and by switching from a nitrogen heavy fertilizer to a phosphorous heavy fertilizer at the beginning of autumn.
Do poinsettias like sun or shade?
Poinsettias love bright sunny windowsills, and require six hours of indirect sunlight each day to thrive. If grown outdoors in warm climate areas, poinsettias will need afternoon shade to protect them from direct sunlight exposure during especially hot afternoons. Growing indoors is highly recommended.
How do you get a poinsettia to rebloom?
Poinsettias will rebloom with just a little bit of encouragement. The push that they need must come in two different forms. At the beginning of fall, switch from a nitrogen heavy fertilizer to a phosphorous heavy fertilizer. Also, gradually introduce a few hours of darkness in the middle of the day to shock the plant into flowering.
Want to learn more about caring for poinsettias?
New Mexico State University covers Poinsettias: Year after Year
Gardening Know How covers Poinsettia Care After Christmas
HGTV covers Poinsettia Care Through Winter
House Beautiful covers Poinsettia Care Buying Tips
Hunker covers How Long Do Poinsettias Live
The Spruce covers Poinsettias Keepers or Compost