The holiday season is upon us and for many that means decorating with poinsettias. These colorful and festive plants are tropical, so they can only be grown indoors in the winter here.
When choosing your poinsettia, look for plants with healthy green foliage. The colored leaves, also called bracts, should be full and damage-free. Bracts may look like the flower, but that is yellow and grows at the base of the bracts. Find a plant with tightly closed flowers that hasn’t shed pollen yet for a longer-lasting bloom.
It can be difficult to keep these tropical short-day plants blooming throughout the winter. Luckily, with proper care, your poinsettias will continue to bloom through the holidays and beyond.
Poinsettias prefer bright indirect light, humid air, and wet soil. Place your poinsettia in a pot with adequate drainage (water should come out of the bottom of the pot when you water) and near a bright window. Try to mist the leaves every few days to simulate a more humid growing environment. Placing other houseplants nearby or using a humidifier can help increase humidity as well.
Many people discard their poinsettias at the end of the holiday season, but you can keep it and it will bloom again next winter if you care for it properly.
Once the bracts and leaves have dropped off the plant, reduce watering and let the soil dry. Then place the poinsettia in a cool, dark room for the remainder of the winter. Water just enough to keep the plant from shriveling. In mid-spring, repot the plant. After repotting, cut the stalks back to 6 inches above the soil. Place the poinsettia in a sunny window and begin watering regularly.
When new growth appears, begin to fertilize the poinsettia. Regular plant food is just fine, follow the directions on the product label. Move the pot outside when low temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees at night (late May or early June on the front range). Bring the plant back inside when low temperatures return to the 50s in late summer. Once the plant is inside you will need to induce blooming by exposing the plant to long nights. In the winter nights are naturally long, but artificial lights in the home can disrupt the plant’s natural processes and prevent blooming. To avoid this, place a box over the plant at night or place the poinsettia in a room where lights are not used at night. Poinsettias need at least 13 hours of darkness at night in the fall to flower.
If you follow these steps, you should have free festive blooms for years to come. Good luck!
By Tommy Roth, CSU Extension Home Horticulture Specialist. For more information on this and other topics, visit extension.colostate.edu or contact your local CSU Extension Office.