Using poinsettias as part of holiday decoration has been a tradition for generations, but if you enjoy the look of these vibrant plants, here is some advice to help them survive past the New Year.
Poinsettias thrive in light—the more light, the better. This light source is needed to help poinsettias complete the process of photosynthesis, thus maintaining their flowers and leaves.
Refrain from giving your poinsettia too much water. Many times, poinsettias are sold in pots that have foil or plastic covers. Often, these covers do not have drainage holes, which means any excess water accumulates at the bottom of the pot. This buildup of water can cause the roots of your poinsettia to rot, eventually leading to the death of your plant. Giving your poinsettia only a cup or two of water each week should be sufficient.
Keep a stable temperature inside your home to help your poinsettia flourish. This does not mean never moving the thermostat but, generally speaking, poinsettias do best in environments above 40 degrees and below 80 degrees. To help foster a stable environment for your plant, refrain from placing it near an HVAC vent, heater, or window.
At some point before spring, your poinsettia likely will drop its leaves. Once this happens, cut the stems back until they are 4 to 6 inches high.
Once spring arrives in full swing, it is time to transplant your poinsettia outside. Wait to complete this transplant until your nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. Choose a location where the ground has good drainage, and where the poinsettia will receive full sun. If you want your poinsettia to have that same vibrant red again, then it needs to be planted somewhere where, beginning in October, it will sit in total darkness for at least 12 to 14 hours each night. Even the ambient light from streetlights can affect the development and color of the plant.
After the poinsettia has become established in its new home, begin a regular schedule of fertilization and watering. Otherwise, care is fairly simple. Although plants grow differently depending on the weather and soil conditions, outdoor poinsettias usually need to be pruned once every two months. Doing so will prevent the plant from becoming too tall and having a “scraggly” appearance. By pruning, which means pinching the tips of new growth, your poinsettia will develop a lush, bushier appearance with smaller flower bracts and thinner branches.
Poinsettias are especially vulnerable to frost and thrive best in hardiness zones from nine to 11. To ensure your poinsettia makes it to the next holiday season, you may want to move it back inside to a container once fall arrives, to help make sure it lasts.
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